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From Kent, With Love: Ian Fleming & James Bond -  The Kentish Connection

Having relocated his 007 MAGAZINE & ARCHIVE office (and home) to Lydd in Kent during March 2008, Editor & Publisher GRAHAM RYE examines how the ‘Garden of England’ has long held an important and lasting influence on the James Bond legacy. 

“While still at school in the 1960s I remember reading an interview with Ian Fleming where the author was asked how he went about creating his heroines. Fleming flippantly replied, “I go out into Romney Marsh and hope to find one there!” While this may sound rather fanciful, it was something that lingered in my memory from that day forward, until an old school friend relocating to Ashford, Kent over a decade later became the catalyst for me to investigate Fleming’s claim further. With the help of Ordnance Survey maps Sheet 179 and 189, my investigation was to reveal information hitherto unknown relating to the origins of some of the important names featured in the James Bond novels.”

PHOTOGRAPHS/GRAHAM RYE (unless otherwise credited)

The cliffs at Kingsdown

Sir Hugo Drax drawn by John McLusky - MOONRAKER comic strip Daily Express

White Cliffs Cottage Noel Coward by Clemence Dane

ABOVE: (main picture) White Cliffs Cottage, St. Margaret's at Cliffe. (top left) Postcard of the cliffs at Kingsdown where Ian Fleming would locate Sir Hugo Drax's Rocket installation in MOONRAKER (1955). (top right) John McLusky's illustration of the cliffs in the Daily Express Comic Strip adaptation of MOONRAKER in 1959. (right) Portrait of Noël Coward by Clemence Dane.

James Bond creator Ian Fleming (1908-1964)

My own connections with Kent have gone back as far as I can remember; my family on my late father’s side came from Staple near Canterbury, and I spent many happy school holidays exploring this beautiful ‘Garden of England’ with my family, and in later years would discover even more of its unique and special charm with the help of my oldest friend. Having been initially awakened to the James Bond character at the age of 11 in 1962 when my Dad took me to see the first 007 film Dr. No, it wasn’t until the release of Goldfinger in 1964 that I fully discovered Ian Fleming’s novels and began reading them voraciously with an enthusiasm for books I’d never experienced before. Tackling the novels in the order they were published, it wasn’t until I reached Fleming’s third Bond novel, MOONRAKER, that I became aware the author had used Kent as a setting for his story, as he would again later in the series.

Ian Fleming loved the Kent countryside and his first country residence was aptly referred to as ‘the first house in England’ – White Cliffs Cottage (1951-1957), because of its dramatic positioning at the foot of the cliffs directly on the sea front at the north end of the beach at St. Margaret’s at Cliffe in East Kent, north-east of Dover. Should the occupant have been devil may care enough to sit in the lounge with the windows open on a stormy day, the incoming sea spray would soon have had them battening down the house’s distinctive lime green shutters (now painted yellow). Fleming purchased White Cliffs Cottage from his good friend Noël Coward, who eventually decided to move in December 1951 as the increased number of motor cars after World War II brought more day trippers and tourists into the area celebrity spotting. Coward complained that St. Margaret’s Bay had become, “a beach crowded with noisy hoi polloi!”

MOONRAKER white cliffs sequence

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