Wednesday 8 January 2014

Enton Hall - the real Shrublands

In 1956, Ian Fleming entered Enton Hall, a health farm near Godalming in Surrey, for a course of naturopathic treatment; his wife Ann had visited the clinic earlier in January of that year, and would be a regular guest. Andrew Lycett tells us that Ian Fleming did not take his treatment seriously, and often escaped the hall with another patient, Guy Welby, whom he had befriended, for drives in Welby's Rolls Royce. Nevertheless, Fleming's stay at Enton Hall had sufficient impact on him to provide the inspiration for Shrublands, a health farm which James Bond visits in Thunderball (chapters 2-4). Despite the different name and location (Sussex), Shrublands is a thinly-disguised Enton Hall, as a comparison of Fleming's text with a contemporary brochure issued by the health farm reveals.

The brochure sent out to prospective guests at the time of Fleming's visit is Enton Hall: A Residential Clinic and Health Farm Devoted to the Renewal and Preservation of Health by Natural Biological Methods. It is undated, but a copy I managed to acquire includes a price list dated October 1963. It was almost certainly unchanged from the brochure issued in 1956. Ann Fleming mentions the brochure in a letter to Evelyn Waugh dated 13 January 1956, noting that while the dining room looked melancholy, she was encouraged by the plates, which were heaped with food. The plates were still there in the brochure issued in 1963.

In Thunderball, James Bond arrives at Shrublands in a taxi. As stated in the brochure, Enton Hall similarly sent taxis to collect guests from the local station, and no doubt Fleming used this service. We know from Bond's earlier conversation with Miss Moneypenny that he's staying in the Myrtle room in the Annexe. Enton Hall also had rooms in an annexe (the Oak House), and the charge for these was 22 guineas a week (about £23), a figure very close to the 'twenty quid' for a week's stay that Bond's taxi driver mentions. As Bond enters the grounds of Shrublands, he passes an “imposing, mock-battlemented entrance”, a description that applies equally well to the gateway of Enton Hall.

Enton Hall gateway

Bond's taxi continues round the gravel drive to the front of the main house, a “red-brick Victorian monstrosity”, where the sun-parlour and terraced lawn are situated. Again the description matches Enton Hall, a red-brick Victorian building with a sun-lounge and south-facing lawn at the front.
Enton Hall: front of building

After being shown to his room, Bond flicks through a copy of Alan Moyle's Nature Cure Explained, which had been left beside the bed. Enton Hall's brochure does not mention the book, but the health farm's methods were utterly in keeping with its principles. As stated in the brochure, treatment “is based on the biological approach as incorporated in Osteopathic and Naturopathic Philosophy.” It is possible that Fleming was introduced to Alan Moyle's book during his visit to Enton Hall in 1956.

Walking around Enton Hall, he notices that his fellow guests wear “unattractive quilted dressing-gowns.” This no doubt reflects the rules of the clinic; at Enton Hall, the brochure instructed patients to bring a warm dressing gown, as patients were not to dress fully until after consultation and treatment. Alas the brochure does not show 'the rack', the motorized traction table to which Bond is grievously subjected, but we do see a photograph of the 'Gentlemen's treatment room' (and staff wearing short-sleeved 'smock-like' coats), which, just like the gentlemen's treatment room at Shrublands, was divided into compartments by plastic curtains.

Enton Hall: Gentlemen's treatment rooms

Before Bond faces 'the rack', though, he enjoys 'dinner' (hot vegetable soup in a mug) in the sun-parlour at a “little café table near the windows overlooking the dark lawn.” If an illustrated version of Thunderball were ever produced, then the illustrator could do no better than reproduce the image in the brochure captioned 'View from sun lounge'. The photograph, showing two men at a little café table at the window overlooking the lawn, precisely illustrates Fleming's description, which was almost certainly written with Enton Hall in mind.
Enton Hall: The sun lounge

The brochure produced by Enton Hall confirms that Shrublands was closely modelled on the health farm that Fleming visited in 1956. The scenes Fleming describes are there in the brochure, and one also wonders whether the treatment Bond receives (with the exception of 'the rack') is identical to that given to Fleming. As with much of his fiction, the Shrublands passages are detailed and convincing, not only because of Fleming's desire for accuracy, but also because they describe his own experiences.

Amory, M (ed.), 1985, The Letters of Ann Fleming, Collins Harvill
Lycett, A, 1995, Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond, Turner

Photographs by Enton Hall Ltd


  1. wow! I lived there from 1964 - 1984.
    Those were the days!!
    If you want to know more just ask!

    1. Hi, Thanks for getting in touch. I would love to know more. Send me a message via the contact form at the top and we'll go from there. All the best, Edward


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