Ivor Goldsmid Samuel Montagu was an English filmmaker, film producer and critic, conservationist, Communist and alleged spy.

He was also the first President of the Saints Supporters’ Club at just 16 and the founder of the International Table Tennis Federation.

Ivor was born in 1904 into the enormous wealth of a Jewish banking dynasty, as the third son of Gladys Goldsmid and Louis Montagu, 2nd Baron Swaythling.

He grew up in Townhill Park House which his father had bought in 1897. Today it is home to the independent Gregg School and is one of the last surviving grand country houses in Southampton with a garden designed by the renowned Gertrude Jekyll.

The eldest son, Stuart Albert Samuel Montagu, became the third Lord Swaythling in 1927 and sold the estate to Southampton Council for housing development after the Second World War in 1948. The house was bought by the Gregg School in 1994 and they moved their secondary school from Winn Road to the house in the same year.

Another son Ewen Edward Samuel Montagu, a barrister, served in Naval Intelligence for MI6 during the Second World War and wrote the bestselling book that inspired the 1956 spy film The Man Who Never Was.

Ewan worked on the top-secret Operation Mincemeat 1943, a deception which led the Axis powers to believe the invasion of Sicily was going to happen elsewhere.

However, it was Ivor who had the most varied life.

He joined the Communist Party of Great Britain which brought him into contact with innovative Russian filmmakers of the 1920s.

He worked as co-producer with Alfred Hitchcock on The Thirty Nine Steps in 1935.

Ivor became the first film critic of The Observer and the New Statesman.

His acclaimed 1928 silent movie Bluebottles - slang for police - was based on an HG Wells’ story. The star was Charles Laughton while the cast included former World Champion boxer Joe Beckett who, on retirement, lived in Shirley.

In 1930 Ivor accompanied his Russian filmmaker friend Sergei Eisenstein to New York and Hollywood.

Much of his work at the time were independent political films made on a low budget and, during the Second World War, he made a film for the Ministry of Information.

Ivor was a founder member of the Association of Cinematograph and Television Technicians. He also held a post on the World Council of Peace.

He had a keen interest in wildlife and was a champion for the conservation of the endangered Przewalski’s horse in Mongolia - the only 'true' wild horse extant in the world today.

According to a decrypted telegraph Ivor Montagu turned out to be working, albeit briefly, for the enemy. The cable, dated July 25, 1940, was from the Secretary to the Soviet Military Attaché in London and identified him as the new recruit who was supposed to create an "X Group" of like-minded friends.

MI5 suspected Ivor because of his outspoken Communist politics, his friendships with Russians and for housing a Jewish refugee in his house.

By far the greatest suspicions were aroused by Ivor's passionate support of international table tennis, which MI5 assumed had to be a cover for something else. Only after the decryption in the 1960s of telegraphs from 1940 to 1942 was he identified as:

"Ivor Montagu, the well known local communist, journalist and lecturer."

Declassified in 1995, these decryptions were never used in any U.S. or British trials for treason.

In 1952, MI5 intercepted a telegram from Ivor Montagu telling Charlie Chaplin how sorry he was to have missed him in London when the star visited England.

The British had agreed to spy on Charlie Chaplin for the FBI, who were looking for ways to keep him out of America at the height of the Senator McCarthy’s blacklist of suspected Communists.

Ivor Montagu was awarded the prestigious Lenin Peace Prize in 1959, given by the Soviet government to a number of recipients whose work furthers the cause of Socialism, primarily outside of the USSR.

Ivor Montagu died in 1984 aged 80.

By Martin Brisland, tour guide with SeeSouthampton.co..uk