A Moment in Local Espionage History: MI6 & Ryder Street

Ryder ST 1

An old view of Ryder Street

The aim of this blog is to highlight antique furniture and historic interiors… but we couldn’t resist sharing this fascinating bit of history from our very own Ryder Street, where we have had a gallery since 2009.

In 1943, MI6 established Section V’s headquarters at 14 Ryder Street.  Section V was the central foreign counter-espionage division.  Kim Philby, the renowned British double agent who eventually defected to the Soviet Union in 1963, often worked in Ryder St and the surrounding clubs.  Tim Milne, a close friend of Philby and former MI6 agent, recalls, ‘the lunch hour usually found Kim, me and a few companions in one or other of the many pubs within three minutes’ walk of 14 Ryder Street.  Our favourite was the Unicorn, at the corner of Jermyn Street and Bury Street.’

The 18th century Unicorn pub no longer exists, having been replaced by office buildings.

Although MI6 has long left Ryder Street (we think…), it is fascinating to explore the history of our slice of St. James’s.  To learn more about the history of the area, read our story about Ryder Street’s local literary history.

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