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Guided by Stewart Purvis

On the BBC

The BBC Four Storyville production Toffs, Queers & Traitors – The Extraordinary Life of Guy Burgessthat was broadcast in mid-November was a perfect fit – more than a fit, really – for this walk.  It was a fascinating tale well told. Stewart Purvis – who created and guides the Spies of Hampstead walk – had a major role in the programme. As did Stewart's co-author and fellow Spies of Hampstead guide Jeff Hulbert. And but of course, the filmmaker worked a short sequence from the walk into the film.  It was a good watch – and you should be able to catch it for a while yet on BBC I-Player. 

Short description: The KGB in NW3  

Long description:  Toniest Hampstead was the unlikely hunting-ground for British and American spy catchers trying to track down residents who'd signed up with the Soviet secret service the KGB. Former Editor and CEO of Independent Television News and now spy biographer Stewart Purvis and his co-author media historian Jeff Hulbert combed through top-secret MI5 and FBI files to find out who was watching whom before and during the Cold War. You'll see some of those files. And the houses the files pinpoint. Houses that are only just now yielding up their Cold War secrets. We'll walk a "Street of Spies,"  where the KGB ran three separate operations. Stewart and Jeff have arranged access to one of their London hubs – we'll go inside. One Cold War name will keep coming up – Hampstead boy turned Soviet Super-spy Kim Philby. The real thing is better than any spy thriller. Guided by Stewart Purvis or Jeff Hulbert, co-authors of Guy Burgess, The Spy Who Knew Everyone. Stewart and Jeff will have copies of their highly recommended book – the New York Review of Books called it "an excellent read" – with them.


The Spies of Hampstead walk takes place at 10.30 am on the third* Sunday of every month. To go on the walk meet Stewart just outside the exit of Belsize Park Tube.

*December 17, January 21, February 18, March 18 and April 15


Here's Stewart giving a quick preview of the walk.


 "London Walks puts you into the hands of an expert on the particular area and topic of a tour..."  The New York Times

"by far the most impressive series of walks that I have ever encountered are those offered by London Walks"  Travel and Enjoy

"I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the 'Hampstead Spies' walk with the charmingly affable Stewart Purvis on February 19. I've lived here (right opposite Chalk Farm tube station) for over 30 years now but there were still some streets that were new to me on Stewart's walk and he came along armed with lots of copies of photos and documents, all professionally laminated, to pass around for us all to get a good butchers [look] at. They were a very interesting crowd by the way...lots of well-informed mittel-European (and quite possibly Eastern European) left intellectuals. At each pausa, Stewart kinda dangled a carrot to lead us to more revelations to come, so was giving us exciting Thomas Hardy 'cliff-hangers,' culminating with the former resident at No. 1 Isokon Building, Lawn Road. Having not read your blurb fully, I didn't realize we would end up there, let alone actually get inside and have a welcome from Max, who had helped to save and restore the building. Oh. And at one stop, the resident came out and leaned on her garden gate to discover the history of her home. All very Hampsteady! So here's my thanks to London Walks and Stewart." Andrew Norman, London


 "London Walks puts you into the hands of an expert on the particular area and topic of a tour..." The New York Times


"Most people think spies are afraid of guns, or KGB guards, or barbed wire, but in point of fact the most dangerous thing they face is paper. Papers carry secrets. Papers can carry death warrants." Charles Stross

"The British secret service was staffed at one point almost entirely by alcoholic homosexuals working for the KGB"  Clive James

"There is no such thing as a former KGB man"  Vladimir Putin

The KGB's star recruiter in the UK. We visit his home.


If you can't make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, public Spies of Hampstead Walks do think about booking one as a private tour. If you go private you can have the Spies of Hampstead Walk – or any other London Walk – on a day and at a time that suits your convenience. We'll tailor it to your requirements. And – always with private London Walks and tours – we go to great lengths to make sure the guide-walker(s) "fit" is well-nigh perfect. Ring Fiona or Noel or Mary on 020 7624 3978 or email us at and we'll set it up and make it happen for you. A private London Walk – they're good value for an individual or couple and sensational value for a group – makes an ideal group or educational or birthday party or office (team-building) or club outing. Or indeed a fab present – be it a birthday or anniversary or get-to-know-your-new neighbourhood gift or Christmas present or whatever. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that's special. Memories make us rich.


Don't just take it from us or The New York Times


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