At Dolphin Square you will uncover a history rich with colourful, distinguished, and infamous characters.
Politicians and peers, spies and foreign dignitaries, glamour girls and stars of stage and screen... all have enjoyed the myriad benefits of life at Dolphin Square.
The proximity of the Square to Westminster has inevitably led to its popularity in the corridors of power. Many politicians have lived here in the past, including Harold Wilson, David Steel, William Hague (who was often seen in the Square’s gymnasium), Estelle Morris, Beverly Hughes and the late Midlands MP Iain Mills. In 1994 alone there were 59 MPs living in the Square, including 23 Conservatives, 27 Labour, and 9 Liberal Democrat. Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, famous for their involvement in the Profumo Affair, were both sub-tenants at Dolphin Square.
In the past, many a foreign dignitary has graced the hallways and gardens of the Square. In 1940 the Free French occupied Grenville House, and when General de Gaulle was in the Square, workmen had to be issued with special passes before being allowed entry to that house.
Dolphin Square’s past association with the worlds of espionage and subterfuge is one that has frequently caused unsuspecting eyebrows to be raised... Perhaps the most famous fictional spymaster, Sir Miles Messervy - Ian Fleming’s M - was partially based upon Maxwell Knight, a senior figure in British military intelligence, a former member of the British Fascisti, an enthusiastic jazz drummer and a long term resident of Dolphin Square. Whilst at MI5, Knight recruited Ian Fleming and a further Dolphin Square resident, William Joyce. An extreme right-winger, Joyce became an infamous figure during the Second World War - Lord Haw-Haw. The leading German mouthpiece during the war, Joyce was hanged for treason in 1946.
Oswald Mosley, fanatical ‘blackshirt’ and, along with Joyce, one of the British Union of Fascist’s prime orators, resided at Dolphin Square with his wife Diana, one of the Mitford sisters. He left the Square in June 1940 to face internment at Holloway Prison, where he lived with his family for the rest of the war in a small house in the prison grounds.
The Square’s relationship with espionage was revived in the early 1960s, with the suspicious goings-on of the tenant residing at No 807 Hood House. John Vassall, an admiralty clerk, was exposed as a Soviet spy in 1962 and, whilst it is rumoured that spies from both sides of the former Iron Curtain enjoyed the Square’s hospitality, Vassall remains the most well known.
During the 1940s and 1950s, when Dolphin Square was the home for many a bright young thing, the comedians Arthur Askey, Tommy Trinder and Vic Oliver - and his wife Susan, a famous actress and the daughter of Winston Churchill - were all residents. After a party at Nelson House one night, it may well have been Askey and Co who carefully changed around the brass numbers on the doors of their fellow residents...
Perhaps one of the Square’s most fondly remembered residents was the former music hall star Bud Flanagan, who lived in Raleigh House. As one half of the hugely successful double act Flanagan and Allen (with Chesney Allen), he enjoyed particular success during the Second World War with songs like ‘We’re Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line’. A member of The Crazy Gang, Flanagan is perhaps more familiar today as the voice behind Jimmy Perry’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler’, the theme tune to the BBC TV programme ‘Dad’s Army’ and Bud’s very last recording.