Last Friday, it was Agatha Christie’s birthday and naturally I celebrated the birth of one of my favourite crime writers at her home. (In fact, I was on my way to the Police History Society annual conference, which was nearby). Greenway, near Torquay, is a beautiful house set in a stunning landscape and it’s easy to see why Agatha loved it so much.
Agatha Christie, née Miller, was born in Torquay on 15 September 1890 and spent her childhood in the family home of Ashfield. During one of her visits home in 1938, with her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, she bought Greenway as a holiday home for their family. The house was the perfect retreat from her busy life as a world-renowned crime writer, and she even wrote two books there: Dead Man’s Folly and Five Little Pigs. The house now belongs to the National Trust and it remains much the same as it was when the Mallowans were there.
The rooms are cosy and comfortably furnished, almost as if the inhabitants had just popped out for a while. There are stacks of books, including an extensive collection of Christie’s own novels – her paperbacks are still on show in the circular bookcase that her daughter had specially made to display them. There are two desks in the house, one in the winter dining room and another in the fax room (although Agatha wrote mainly in her bedroom), and it’s easy to imagine her there, pen in hand, thinking of ingenious methods of killing people.
The house retains much of her personality, with many quirky objects, such as a skull-shaped porcelain jar (above), her collection of homeopathic medicine bottles (they looked like poison bottles to me), and a ceramic lobster dish, representing her favourite food. Agatha celebrated many of her birthdays in the dining room at Greenway, which is a particularly airy and pleasant room.
The gardens of the estate are stunning, and there are many intriguing pathways through the ferns, and stone archways to tempt you into the dense foliage. Whilst wandering around, I came across the pet cemetery, where her dogs are commemorated with small headstones near a delightful fountain. My favourite place was the boathouse, used as the setting for the murder of Girl Guide Marlene Tucker, in Dead Man’s Folly.
Greenway is an enchanting and inspiring place and I would highly recommend a visit, but do take care as just beneath its serene surface lurks murder most foul….
For information about Greenway, click here