Dolphin Square SW1

If the walls at Dolphin Square could speak, they would reveal a history rich with colourful, distinguished, and sometimes notorious characters. Politicians and peers, spies and foreign dignitaries, glamour girls and stars of stage and screen have all enjoyed the many benefits of life at Dolphin Square.

The proximity of the Square to Westminster has inevitably led to its popularity with politicians. Many have lived here in the past, including Harold Wilson, David Steel, William Hague, Estelle Morris, Beverly Hughes and the late Midlands MP Iain Mills. In 1994 alone, 59 MPs lived in the Square. 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 foreign dignitaries graced Dolphin Square’s hallways and gardens. 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.

Dolphin Square also has past associations with the worlds of espionage and subterfuge. Ian Fleming’s M was partially based on Maxwell Knight, a senior figure in British military intelligence, a former member of the British Union of Fascists, an accomplished jazz drummer and a long term resident of Dolphin Square. Whilst at MI5, Knight recruited Ian Fleming and a fellow resident, William Joyce. An extreme right-winger, Joyce became an infamous figure during the Second World War – ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, a leading German propaganda mouthpiece during World War 2 who was ultimately executed for treason.

Oswald Mosley, fanatical ‘blackshirt’ and, along with Joyce, one of the British Union of Fascist’s prime orators, lived 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.

During the 1940s and 1950s Dolphin Square was the home to several comedians including Arthur Askey, Tommy Trinder and Vic Oliver. Oliver’s wife Susan was herself a famous actress and the daughter of Winston Churchill. After a party at Nelson House one night, the brass numbers on a number of doors at Nelson House had been swapped around, giving rise to rumours that this was the prank of some of these residents. Former music hall star Bud Flanagan – one half of the hugely successful double act Flanagan and Allen – lived in Raleigh House. Flanagan he enjoyed particular success during World War 2 with songs like ‘We’re Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line’. His voice is still familiar today singing Dad’s Army’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler’.

Dolphin Square’s connections with espionage were revived in the early 1960s. Tenant John Vassall, an admiralty clerk, was exposed as a Soviet spy in 1962. It is rumoured that agents from both sides of the former Iron Curtain lived here.

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