Perhaps only a man who can list “truffle entrepreneur” on his résumé could have conceived Britain’s most exclusive Web site, Radio H-P. Imagine a posh Craigslist where carefully vetted members can commune about their needs: a spot on a grouse hunt, a suitable nanny for their toddler or internship for their teen, a Bedlington-whippet-mix puppy from just the right bloodline. The best sort of everything is there for this fortunate community handpicked by founder Nigel Hadden-Paton, ex-cavalry officer, polo player, close friend of Sarah Ferguson, and, indeed, purveyor of truffle-inoculated saplings to the Duke of Edinburgh.
Radio H-P was started in 2015, when the well-connected Hadden-Paton found himself putting his friends in touch about various opportunities and realized that his coterie embodied, as he put it in The Guards Magazine, “an honourable and trusted network … the catalyst for the values behind Radio H-P.” For the pedigrees, too, it seems. New candidates must be put forward by two members, their nominations accompanied by testimonials of suitability. Hadden-Paton told The Times of London that he reads every recommendation himself, carefully winnowing for that ineffable quality, “background.” His choices receive his personal invitation to join. Radio H-P’s membership now tops about 8,000, and Tatler magazine has dubbed its founder “Fulham’s answer to Mark Zuckerberg.”
A purveyor of truffle-inoculated saplings to the Duke of Edinburgh.
Hadden-Paton’s own background is impeccable. Although he did not attend one of England’s ancient public schools, he served on the board of his alma mater, the Milton Abbey School, founded in 1954. He was also on the board of the Guards Polo Club (whose grounds in Windsor Great Park host chukkers for the top tier of international players, including the royal princes). Like many men of his generation, he chose the army over university. He was a major in the venerable yet dashing Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry, whose colonel-in-chief is the Queen. He and Bumble, his wife of some 40 years, have four children, including their son, actor Harry Hadden-Paton, a star of Downton Abbey and The Crown, who recently played Henry Higgins in the acclaimed Lincoln Center revival of My Fair Lady. Harry was sent to Eton.
For its first 18 months—and first $23,000 of profit—Radio H-P was a charitable endeavor, its proceeds passed along to the Household Cavalry Foundation. Then Nigel H-P decided to monetize it, on the advice of friends. Now the site’s fees surprise some members, who are shocked by the “small print” costs of doing business there. Advertisers are charged on a sliding scale, from $38 for charities to $157 for established businesses, and the site gets a commission on property sales.
Nevertheless, upper-crusters are eager to join, even though, as one member describes it, entry is “more difficult than joining the Maidstone,” the exclusive East Hampton Wasp nest by the sea. Once admitted, they receive countless daily e-mails listing a very British jumble of goods and services. One might find an ad for a château rental in Provence followed by an offer of used sofa cushions or a Victorian albino-elephant umbrella stand. Members can hire Milo’s Dog Running service to guarantee their Lab or lurcher a daily half-hour of cardio or they can advertise for a kind person to drive Mum to the doctor. And, reassuringly, they deal only with people just like themselves: one user told The Times of London that the network feels like home because everyone is “so lovely and polite.”
“More difficult than joining
The same member who spoke to the exclusivity of Radio H-P offered another insight: “It’s still such a tight little world and everybody likes to find their friends in the ads: ‘Oh, look, Gemma is trying to sell that old Jag for 5,000 quid!’” Yet, she also finds the site skewed to a middle-aged audience doomed to dwindle. “It’s really the last bastion for the Hooray Henrys,” the hearty hunting and shooting men who, with their Sloane Ranger wives, were a popular caricature of upper-class Englishness a generation ago. “They have nowhere else to go.”
Still, Hadden-Paton seems determined to see them out with his signature electronic politesse. His family’s coat of arms adorns all login pages and posts, its motto enjoining recipients to “Do Right and Fear Nought.” Each e-mail is formatted as a personal letter from him to the member, whom he addresses by first name, and opens with his own encouraging thoughts about the ad. And every post closes with “Love/best wishes, Nigel.”
Robin Olson is a writer and editor based in New York City.