Moonraker mansion: The £21.5m Belgravia home that inspired a Bond villain

Author Ian Fleming is said to have drawn inspiration for Moonraker's Sir Hugo Drax from a friend who lived on the street

Former Italian Embassy in Belgravia believed to have inspired a Bond villain, now a £21.5m mansion for sale in Lygon Place. Photo: Beauchamp Estates
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A sprawling London property believed to have inspired the fictional home of James Bond villain Sir Hugo Drax is on the market for £21.5 million.

The six-bedroom home is in Belgravia’s Lygon Place, round the corner from where Ian Fleming lived on Ebury Street.

Fleming is said to have drawn inspiration for the Moonraker character from a school friend, Sir Reginald Drax, who rented a home on Lygon Place in the 1920s and 1930s.

Built in 1900-1901 in the Arts and Crafts style, the 7,948-square foot property, in a row of townhouse-mansions, has a red-brick facade.

In 1923 – the last time it was for sale on the open market – the townhouse-mansion was acquired by the Italian government to serve as the country's embassy, where ambassador Count Dino Grandi later entertained guests including Wallis Simpson, the American socialite and wife of Edward VIII.

Ambassador Grandi was eventually recalled to Italy by Prime Minister Mussolini in 1939 to halt his efforts at seeking peace with Britain.

In 1945 the Grade II-listed building became the Embassy Office of the Italian Defence Attaché, providing accommodation for the attaché, his deputy and staff representing the land, air and naval branches of the Italian armed forces.

It remained an Italian defence outpost until 2005, when the office moved to a different address in Belgravia. Permission was sought the following year to convert the building into a home.

Work was carried out from 2009 to 2011 to transform it into a luxury residence.

It now has a spacious entrance hall, three reception rooms, a family kitchen and breakfast room, cinema room, fitness studio, six en suite bedrooms, and an underground car park with access at the back of the house, offering the resident both privacy and security.

“It’s one of the few gated terraces in London. I think the only one in Belgravia,” Charles Lloyd, head of Beauchamp Estates for Mayfair and Belgravia, told The National.

“Architecturally it’s a very pretty house. And the space planning within the house is very good. The light is very good. It ticks a lot of boxes,” Mr Lloyd said.

“You have 24-hour security, so if you’re security-conscious it’s gated, it has underground parking, it has a garden and it has a lift. So it has those four really strong tick boxes in terms of buyer requirements.”

The sprawling property also has staff quarters/studio and a 24-hour porter.

On the ground floor, the entrance hall has chequered marble flooring, and there is a guest cloakroom, the grand central staircase and a reception room.

The designer kitchen has high-gloss white and timber cabinets, a comprehensive range of integrated appliances, marble worktops and stone flooring. An adjoining breakfast area is bordered by a large bay window overlooking the rear terraced garden.

On the first floor, there is a drawing room and dining room with parquet flooring, wall panelling and elegant Regency-style marble fireplaces and ceiling coving.

The luxurious principal bedroom suite occupies the second level of the mansion, featuring a large bedroom, two walk-in dressing rooms and a main bathroom with twin marble basins, marble bath and separate walk-in shower.

There are five more en suite bedrooms on the upper floors.

“It has very good light. It’s a very bright house. It has a lift which is pretty crucial on a house like this these days,” said Mr Lloyd.

“Everything is very generously proportioned. Nothing feels pinched or compromised.”

The lower-ground floor features a cinema room, fitness studio and staff quarters comprising a bedroom with shower room and kitchenette. It also has facilities including a utility room, two vaults and storage cupboards.

“The townhouse-mansion in Lygon Place is one of the finest residences in Belgravia and this is the first time it has been on the open market for sale in over 100 years,” said Gary Hersham, founder of Beauchamp Estates.


Fleming’s third novel about Bond is the only one set entirely in the UK, in London and on the Kentish coast.

It differs from the film of the same name, which takes Bond to far-flung locations including Venice, Rio de Janeiro and even outer space.

In both stories, Bond investigates the hijacking of an American space shuttle called Moonraker, manufactured by a company owned by Drax, the chief antagonist.

Fleming drew on his personal experience extensively in writing the book, using his own haunts as a basis for Bond’s.

In addition to his neighbour and friend Mr Drax, Fleming’s friend Duff Sutherland was one of the bridge players at a private card club he visited.

It even includes a car chase – considered by some to be arguably the best in the Bond series – that begins on Ebury Street,

It sees 007 pursue Drax, who is driving a 300S Mercedes, in his Bentley, all the way to Dover, where the famous spy loses his beloved car.

Updated: March 04, 2024, 9:13 AM