‘Classified !’ – Espionage & spy sites of London (Kensington & Chelsea)
Kensington & Chelsea conjure up images of leafy avenues, exclusive shopping outlets & fine dining, and an abundance of the uber rich. Little do many of residents today know that Kensington was once a hub of the intelligence community, revealing today many secrets of some who called this area home.
The area once upon a time housed many of the Cambridge spy ring who strangely were communist in belief, yet lived in this decadent area. On this walk Ade will take you on a stroll through this lovely area of town revealing some of the ‘top secret’ personnel who lived and worked here.
First stop on our walk is a few seconds walk away from our meeting place of South Kensington tube station. I’ll reveal some secrets of the station itself, plus Anya Kushchenko (Anna Chapman) an SVR spy who lived opposite, and the Daquise cafe, a meeting place for international spies.
A brisk walk along Harrington road and we come to what was once the Russian Tea Rooms. An interesting place in itself, but even more interesting is the connection to Anna Volkov, a Russian sympathiser of Nazism and associate of Tyler Kent, an American working at the Embassy.
Heading south and into Chelsea, we stop at Evelyn Gardens to learn about an intriguing guy who was active in WW1 for the Germans by the name of Hans Von Rintelen. His incredible story took place mainly in the USA where he was a spy, but he died here in Chelsea just after WW2.
Further south still and another death in a flat in Chelsea of a prominent spy, this time of Stephen Ward. Ward was an Osteopath to the wealthy and connected to London society, who became a major player in the Profumo affair, involving Christine Keeler and of course MP John Profumo.
Around the corner into Carlyle Square, and the infamous Kim Philby becomes our figure of interest. Philby, one of the notorious Cambridge spy ring, defected to the USSR when outed as a spy along with a couple of others. Learn of the intricacies of being a double agent here, as Philby was incredibly high up in command in British Intelligence.
18 Carlyle Square, home of Kim Philby
After a stroll along the King’s Road I’ll take you down to Tedworth Square, where we have two places of espionage interest. Firstly at 33 lived lived Dick Ellis, an Australian working for the British in the SIS (MI6), but roundly believed to have been either a Russian or German spy during the WW2. Next door was another incredibly interesting occupant active in both wars and commander of the the newly opened Government code & cypher school after having been in charge of ‘Room 40’ the WW1 code breaking team, Alistair Denniston.
Heading back towards to Kensington, we come across another radical sympathiser of the working man who happened to have a home in Chelsea, say hello to Carlos the Jackal. This fascinating character had many addresses as he was always on the run, and this was one of them. Let me tell you about some of the scrapes this guy got himself into !
The next two stops are very close to each other and I must say I find these deeply interesting. As with so many assassinations, the culprit is never caught but the suspects in the murder of ‘God’s banker’ Roberto Calvi, a disgraced banker were only the Mafia and the Vatican, not to say a shadowy Masonic Lodge known as Propaganda due. Calvi was found hanging under Blackfriars’ Bridge.
On Ives street once stood a small Kuwaiti newspaper who employed a celebrated cartoonist from Palestine. Naji Salin Hussein Al Ali depicted many Arab leaders as well as the Israeli regime in a less than glamorous light. He was assassinated in August 1983 by whom, nobody knows !
And so, moving into the picturesque grounds of Brompton Oratory, I’ll inform of the skills of the Dead letter drop and all of its intricate workings, for it was here that many KGB and other spies communicated from. Heading to the ‘Hole in the Wall, we first of all see the house where many espionage connected peoples have lived. Here I’ll talk about the ‘real James Bond’ Dusko Popov and Richard Meinerzhagen.
The last two stops take us espionage diving as we hear of the strange death, possibly at the hands of the KGB of Buster Crabb an MI6 Diver, when he was found dead after being given a mission to check on Kruschev’s boat whilst here on a peace mission! And our final place of interest if the home of one the intelligence services most decorated officers, the unique and often rather strange Maxwell Knight, the man noted for taking his pet Baboon for walks around the streets of Knightsbridge.
So, we’ve reached the end of my introduction to this tour. I’ve found it incredibly fascinating researching this subject and I hope to be able to pass on my enthusiasm and knowledge of London’s world of espionage to you soon.
Please remember, this is just walk number two of five! Check my other walks on this subject and many others on the walks information page, and I hope to take you on a stroll around a part of this amazing city of ours.
Take a stroll with Ade, a qualified London Borough Guide
‘Enthusing the enthusiastic’