London's espionage locations revealed

Assignations, assassinations, Danger Mouse and dead drops – the capital has a shadowy secret on every corner, as Time Out‘s briefing on the city‘s key espionage locations reveals

  • London's espionage locations revealed

    London: a shadowy secret on every corner

  • Horseguards, Whitehall, SW1

    One of the first formal manifestations of the intelligence services, the British Army’s Depot of Military Knowledge was based here between 1805 and 1815. It provided maps and other tactical information during the Napoleonic Wars.

    140 Gower Street, WC1

    This intentionally anonymous-looking building was used by MI5 between 1976 and 1995. ‘Spycatcher’ author Peter Wright stayed in the flat on the top floor on his last night with MI5.

    ‘Spooks’ HQ, WC2

    The imposing art deco building used for MI5 HQ exterior shots in the BBC spy drama ‘Spooks’ is actually the Grand Lodge of the Freemasons on Great Queen Street in Covent Garden.

    64 Baker Street, NW1

    Became the HQ of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) in October 1940. The SOE was designed to be separate from any existing service, ‘an army of the shadows’ (in Churchill’s words).

    Leconfield House, Curzon Street, W1

    Post-war home of MI5 until the 1970s. In the Registry, files were kept on suspicious targets like, er, Jack Straw. The House had its own drinking club to stop officers spilling secrets in nearby pubs. Kim Philby was interrogated here in 1951.

    3 Carlton Gardens, SW1

    This is where MI6 will interview you if it’s interested in hiring you (see feature on page 28).

    Boodle’s, 28 St James’s Street, SW1

    A popular club with MI6 officers. Ian Fleming was a member, and it appears in the Bond books as Blade’s – M’s club of choice.

    Thames House, Millbank, SW1

    HQ of MI5 since 1937 – when the number of staff totalled 28 – and called ‘Box 500’ by civil servants and police. (Box 500, London, SW1 is MI5’s official postal address.)

    2-14 Palmer Street, SW1

    London unit of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the Cheltenham-based electronic spy agency. Before the war, a team of 30 seamstresses based here opened and then resealed intercepted diplomatic foreign mail.

    Selfridges Annexe, W1

    In WWII, a top-secret signals intelligence HQ was located at the rear of Selfridges on Edwards Mews. Two whole floors housed the voice encryption technology operated by US Signal Intelligence for the phone link between Churchill and Roosevelt.

    Vauxhall Cross, SE1

    The £240 million HQ of MI6, designed by Terry Farrell and completed in 1993, is rumoured to be five storeys deep.

    Beaufort Gardens, 350 Kennington Lane, SE11

    Said to comprise MI6 underground garages and offices.

    Danger Mouse’s HQ, NW1

    The HQ of the animated mouse spy is a pillar box on Baker Street. DM’s boss, the walrus Colonel K, previously worked for Special Branch and was the first person to climb Mount Everest on a pogo-stick. Top trivia: Penfold’s first name is Ernest.

    16 Victoria Square, SW1

    The home of Ian Fleming from 1953 until his death in 1964.

    30 Wellington Square, SW3

    Fleming’s books don’t tell us where 007 lived, but Bond biographer John Pearson places him here.

    54 Broadway, SW1

    Known as the ‘Broadway Buildings’, this was Secret Service HQ from 1924 to 1966. A fake plaque outside said ‘Minimax Fire Extinguisher Company’.

    9 Bywater Street, SW3

    John Le Carré’s George Smiley lived here. Smiley is said to have been modelled on Sir Maurice Oldfield, head of MI6 in the 1970s.

    Bus stop, Waterloo Bridge, SE1

    Bulgarian intellectual Georgi Markov was waiting here on the night of September 7 1978 when a passer-by jabbed him in the thigh with an umbrella, injecting a tiny metal ball containing the poison ricin. Markov died four days later. The Bulgarian secret police are thought to be responsible.

    Brompton Oratory, SW7

    MI6 controllers would meet their agents here. It was also a favourite ‘dead letter office’ of KGB agents.

    35 Portland Place, W1

    Until 1940, this was the SOE’s ‘product development’ lab, where its real-life Qs developed exploding rats and shaving-cream tubes with secret chambers.

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