Daily Mail: 19 Upper Cheyne Row Former Spy Pad
- By Adam Foster
- 05 July 2015
In one of the main rooms of a Grade II listed Victorian townhouse in Chelsea’s Upper Cheyne Row is a bar that’s a relic from the 1960s. The townhouse property on one of London’s most expensive streets is on the market through Russell Simpson for £6million
It stands as a shrine to conversations that could be considered some of the most important of the Cold War. The bar in the £6million home exists because of a friendship between a British spy and a Soviet double agent, and was paid for by each party’s official paymasters
So when retired commodities broker Perry de Havilland and his partner, yoga teacher Adriana Lukas, put the house on the market last month, they decided to leave it in situ so the property’s new owners can decide whether they want to keep it.
The bar exists because of a friendship between a British spy and a Soviet double agent, and was paid for by each party’s official paymasters – but with neither MI6 nor the KGB knowing that the opposite side was making a contribution.
British spy Greville Wynne owned the house in the early 1960s and, at the time, was friends with Soviet double agent Oleg Penkovsky. The pair each asked their paymasters for £500 (the equivalent of £5,000 today) to pay for the construction of a bar at Wynne’s house.
According to de Havilland, whose grandfather bought the house from Wynne, Penkovsky told the KGB that Wynne enjoyed ‘alcohol and women of negotiable virtue’ and that the bar would help him extract secrets from the agent as he would be able to talk to him when he was relaxed and more loose-lipped.
Wynne told MI6 a similar story, describing Penkovsky as a nervous type who would be more likely to betray sensitive information when under the influence of alcohol, and arguing that he would be able to ply the Russian with booze in the comfort of his own home.
Of the £1,000 the pair received, only £100 was spent on the construction of the bar – the rest went on alcohol and ‘other forms of entertainment’, according to de Havilland.
But while the KGB and MI6 were short-changed over the bar, the conversations that flowed there between the dissolute Wynne and Penkovsky paid real dividends. De Havilland says that his grandfather, who became friends with Wynne, found out what was revealed and how Wynne was secretly rewarded.
In the late 1960s, Wynne was offered the choice of a one-off payment of £50,000 or a life pension by the American government – a vast sum at the time and an unheard-of offer from a foreign government to a British agent.
Wynne, who took the £50,000, suggested that it was a reward for gleaning from Penkovsky vital information about the Russian military sites in Cuba that steered President Kennedy’s brinkmanship diplomacy in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. ‘Wynne also told my grandfather that Penkovsky had told him that the USSR was not willing to start World War Three over Cuba and this was vital information for Kennedy,’ says de Havilland.
Penkovsky was to pay for these conversations with his life. He was shot in the Soviet Union in 1963, after being arrested the previous year. Wynne was also arrested by the KGB, while in Budapest, and taken to the Soviet Union, where he was convicted of spying. Wynne’s conviction and Penkovsky’s execution happened within a week of each other.
Wynne was released in a prisoner exchange a year later. According to de Havilland, it was during his imprisonment in Russia that Wynne, who died in 1990 aged 70, redesigned the interiors of the house, drawing them on toilet paper in his cell.
He was obviously keen on pine. All the cornices on the ceilings you’d expect to see in a house of this period have been covered by pine panelling, giving some of the rooms a sauna-like look.
While the buyers of the house may find that takes some getting used to, they will have plenty to admire elsewhere. The five-bedroom property, which comprises 2,846 square feet, has a spectacular 210 sq ft roof terrace. There is also a large, south-facing garden, with a private studio cottage complete with bathroom and kitchen and separate entrance.
Below the ground-floor reception room in which the bar is situated is a large open-plan kitchen/dining area. The suspicious Penkovsky would often head down to this area when he was concerned about bugging devices.
Perry and Adriana are selling the house to downsize, but Perry admits it will be a wrench after enjoying its quirks. He has lived there since 1997 when he moved in to help look after his grandfather, who died in 2001.