Hancy: From Arlington, with Love

Bronze bust of the author Ian Fleming by the British sculptor Anthony Smith. Commissioned by the Fleming family to commemorate the centenary of Ian Fleming’s birth in 2008.

by April Hancy

Down Black Hole Hollow Road in Arlington, Vermont, on the VT/NY border sits a c. 1770 sprawling stone residence on vast acreage, named Black Hole Hollow Farm. Not exactly a working farm with cows and pigs, but more of an equestrian and drinking facility frequented by artists, espionage agents, and Princess Margaret.


Meet Josephine Bryce (the former owner) and her last husband Ivar Bryce, who traveled between their homes on Jamaica, Long Island, and elsewhere. Ivar (a nickname) chose to spend summers at the Vermont property with his lifelong friends Ian Fleming (James Bond novels) and Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach).

During WWII Bryce, Fleming, and Dahl were working as a British Intelligence team in NYC. Fleming and Bryce attended Eton College together and also met as children in Cornwall.

They were all to spend much more time in the New York/Vermont area. Hiking in the forests and climbing Big Spruce Peak were favored activities, and references to happenings and places made their way into the Bond novels. A leg of lamb, mud-baths on the wrong side of town,and the Montpelier Dept. of Fish and Game became part of detective fiction.It may have been Roald Dahl who actually created the character 007 based on Ivar Bryce, who after all was a terribly good-looking Spy, and who himself conjured up the Vesper Martini. This probably did impress Princess Margaret (who shared the Mountbatten family tree with Ivar), but maybe not Jacqueline Kennedy.

It is unclear whether or not Mrs. Ian Fleming was invited to these heady get-aways. An Englishwoman of the Tennant bloodline, she had already been married to two English Lords, so chatting with Josephine Bryce about her hostess’s 90-carat diamond, the Afghanistan, would have seemed perfectly normal. According to legend, this bold diamond made its way into the book title “Diamonds Are Forever”.

But I’m sure they all would have loved the EAT MORE KALE t-shirts.

Besides creating books, movies, and martinis, Fleming and Bryce were investors in the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), which acted as a newswire from the New York Times to the New England area.

Finally, Ivar started a movie production company named Xanadu Films Ltd.. The company was slowly gaining traction in Europe. As the first Bond movie was about to be made, Fleming sent Alfred Hitchcock a widely-published telegram requesting of Hitchcock that he direct the film, which did not come to fruition.

You never know what you might find down a Vermont road. Black Hole Hollow Farm has since changed hands and now features a koi pond.

Author is a biographer living in Montpelier.

Categories: History