Agatha Christie's home Greenway opened to public
£5.4million spent on renovation of Greenway, Devon
Greenway has been an important Devonshire property for over 500 years. There have been a fascinating array of owners over this period, each leaving their mark on the estate we treasure today.
In 1937 the Williamses returned to Cornwall, leaving a more colourful and varied Greenway, which they sold to Sir Alfred Goodson of nearby, of nearby Waddeton Court. The estate was split up, and within only a year the house with 36 acres was up for sale again for £6,000.
1938-1959 Mrs Mallowan
During the autumn of 1943, Greenway was requisitioned by the Admiralty for the use of the United States Navy. As part of the preparations for D-Day, Greenway became the Officers Mess for the 10th US Patrol Boat Flotilla based in the Dart Estuary. Amongst them was a Lt Marshall Lee, who was to become their unofficial war artist, creating a frieze around the walls of the library. During the build-up to D-Day, American music could often be heard wafting over the estate. According to local rumour, an abrupt silence foretold another raid by the Luftwaffe!
1959-2000 Rosalind and Anthony Hicks, Mathew Prichard
Anthony Hicks ran a commercial nursery at Greenway propagating plants grown in the garden. This in turn led to the creation of an increasingly specialised collection of tender and rare southern hemisphere plants in a natural setting. Rosalind and Anthony have lived at Greenway since 1967 and have greatly enjoyed the garden and their involvement, in developing its unique characteristics.
In 2000, the family decided to give this much loved family home and garden, including Lower Greenway Farm, to the National Trust.
2000-onwards... The National Trust
The Trust aims to retain the spirit of the place, its almost wayward character, its atmospheric beauty, and its timeless qualities. Care will be taken to nurture the garden and safeguard the excitement, the mystery and the wildness. Greenway will not be a 'found lost garden'.
To help piece together the jigsaw of Greenway, we have had the benefit of valuable resources: the donor family, who have known the estate for 60 years; two previous head gardeners and other staff, who have notched up 88 years work on the gardens at Greenway.
All have contributed to the surveys commissioned by the Trust. Surveys have been carried out by Trust specialists and external contractors on Greenway's garden history, archaeology and horticulture. The garden has been measured and mapped with the tagging of 2,700 significant trees and woody plants. Already much has been done, but there is much still to do.
Agatha Christie's Greenway - For many years, Greenway, on the River Dart, was the summer home of famed British novelist, Agatha Christie. Now the house is being restored to its former glory by the National Trust. Inside Out has exclusive access prior to its opening.
In 1938 it came up for sale and in Agatha's own words "…so we went over to Greenway and very beautiful it was.
A white, Georgian house of about 1780 or 90 - woods sweeping down to the Dart below with lots of very beautiful flowers and shrubs.
"The perfect house."
Her husband Max said "Why don't you buy it?" so she did - and the family spent many happy holidays there. Her grandson, Matthew Prichard remembers idyllic family holidays at the house.
He recalls Agatha reading him stories in her bedroom in the mornings and has fond memories of walks down to the boathouse to watch the steamers coming up river.
Another favourite pastime was listening to Agatha read the family her latest 'whodunnit' so that they could guess who the murderer was.
Matthew remembers Agatha always being infuriated when her husband came up with the right answer - as he nearly always did - because he had often dozed through most of the reading!
During the war, Greenway was taken over by American troops, in the South West of England to practice in secret for the Normandy Landings.
During rehearsals on Slapton Sands German torpedo boats attacked the flotilla hitting three landing craft and killing over 700 men.
Agatha Christie inside her dream home.
For those surviving, Greenway became a refuge and they left an amazing souvenir - a remarkable frieze detailing their wartime exploits - which Agatha chose to leave in place as a piece of the history of the house.
When the National Trust started restoration in 2007, project manager Robyn Brown found that parts of the house were on the verge of collapse.
The Trust put up scaffolding and covered the building so that they could open up the final part of the roof to discover the full extent of the damage.
They had already found a huge crack, the width of a fist, running down one end of the building and the architect had warned them then that the work was going to be expensive.
Now though the structural engineer looked at the remains of the roof and told Robyn he couldn't understand how the building was still standing.
All the joist ends supporting the roof had rotted so there was nothing really holding it up but gravity.
As work on the £5.4m restoration has gone on, Greenway has been revealing all sorts of secrets about its famous owner.
There's proof of Christie's talents as a concert class pianist who also composed her own music, some of which was actually unearthed in a crate under the piano.
Inside the house - Greenway. The most fascinating discovery of all though was found tucked away in an upstairs cupboard.
It was an old tape recorder and a box of tapes of Agatha dictating her autobiography, recorded over a period of about 10 years.
As Agatha was so shy there are very few recordings of her available - probably no more than two hours worth other than these tapes.
The old tape recorder had seized up but an expert was brought in to help and it has been restored to working order so he was able to listen to the tapes.
"If I were to have any of the houses around here, I would rather live at Greenway, on the Dart," she remarked.
Very soon, with thousands of hours of restoration work nearing completion, the National Trust will open Greenway's doors to the public so they will be able to share this very special place.
Agatha Christie loved nothing better than escaping with her family to Greenway, their Devon holiday home. Following the launch of an appeal to raise £5.4 million to help pay for major restoration work, the National Trust will open Greenway House to the public from Spring 2009. For the first time, visitors will have the opportunity to view the many personal collections and mementoes of our best-loved mystery writer and her family.
Agatha Christie's family gave Greenway to the National Trust in 2000. However, as the retirement home of her daughter and son-in-law, Rosalind and Anthony Hicks, the house remained closed to the public. Visitors have for several years been able to enjoy the beautiful woodland garden, with its romantic pathways that lead down to the Dart estuary. Following the recent deaths of Rosalind and Anthony, the house passed to the Trust, along with the generous gift from Agatha Christie's grandson, Mathew Prichard, of the majority of the contents.
Greenway Boat House
The major restoration project to the house and construction of new visitor facilities are nearing completion and will then enable the Trust to present Greenway as it was when Agatha Christie described it as "the loveliest place in the world." While this work takes place, the Trust is sharing the process of restoring and caring for the many fascinating items, collected by the family, with visitors who will be able to watch conservation in action.
A visit to Greenway will take visitors, all of whom will be encouraged to arrive by green transport, on a 1950s holiday, painting an intimate portrait of Agatha Christie not only as a writer, but as a mother, wife and hostess. Overlaying her own collections are those of Rosalind and Anthony, who made Greenway their permanent home from the early 1970s.
The vision for Greenway is clear: there will be no gimmicks, no ' Miss Marple Museum' or room stewards dressed as Hercule Poirot - this was a much-loved family home. In addition to the rooms open to daily visitors, part of the house will be available as a holiday apartment, continuing Greenway's legacy as a holiday retreat. It will feel as if Agatha Christie and her family have never left.
Agatha Christie Except for Georges Simenon, Agatha Christie is the only writer of fiction whose works have sold over 300 million copies throughout the world. In the United Kingdom alone, just the paper-back editions of her books sell over 1.5 million copies a year. And her singular triumphs are not confined to the world of books. Her play The Mousetrap has enjoyed the longest continuous run of any show at one theatre. On November 25, 1952, this melodrama opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London, and it broke the record on February 28, 1972, with its 8,000th performance. Next to Shakespeare, Agatha Christie is the 2nd most-translated English author.
These staggering achievements have been made by a generally retiring woman who gets her best ideas while eating apples in her bathtub. Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon, England. Her father, Frederick Alvah Miller of New York, died when she was very young, and she was reared by her mother and educated privately. It was her mother who encouraged her writing. One day young Agatha had a cold and could not go out. Her mother suggested that she amuse herself by writing a story. Later, she studied singing in Paris but was disappointed when she realized that her voice was not of star quality. To console herself Agatha Christie wrote a novel, which she showed to a literary neighbour, and he encouraged her to continue her efforts.
From time to time she was fortunate enough to have a short story published. However, her 1st great success did not come until after her marriage to an English army officer, Archibald Christie. While he was away fighting in W.W. I, she wrote a detective novel in her free time away from her work as a volunteer nurse. After many rejections, it was finally published in 1920 under the title The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The book was a success, and it introduced one of the greatest fictional sleuths of all time, Hercule Poirot, a worthy successor to Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes, Poirot relies not on gimmickry but on what he calls the "little gray cells" to solve the crime. This clever Belgian is matched by Miss Jane Marple, another Christie creation, who deftly spots murderers by drawing on her knowledge of the people in her own small English village. People are the same everywhere, she says, and it is best to suspect the worst of everyone in a murder case.
In real life Agatha Christie herself was once the subject of a mystery. She disappeared from her home in December, 1926, and a nationwide search was launched for her. An anonymous letter brought her searchers to a hotel where they found her suffering from amnesia and living under the name of the woman who was to become her husband's 2nd wife. After her divorce, she subsequently met and married Max Mallowan, an archaeologist, whom she has accompanied on his expeditions to Egypt and the Near East. These excursions have often provided backgrounds for her novels.
Now in her middle 80s, she still writes at least one novel a year, adding to a total that matches her age. Her works offer murder in pleasant surroundings. She emphasizes plot and character and eschews violence for its own sake. Among her greatest triumphs are The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, a tale that brilliantly defied all the canons of detective fiction, and Ten Little Indians, also published as And Then There Were None. To the public and critics alike, she remains the world's greatest mystery writer.
Dame Agatha Christie [pseudonym Mary Westmacott] (1890-1976), prolific English ‘Queen of Crime’ author of world-renown created such famous detectives as Hercule Poirot, the eccentric Belgian who relied on his keen grasp of logic to nab crooks;
and English spinster Miss Jane Marple (partly inspired by her maternal grandmother) who used her feminine intuition to solve crime. Her motto:
“The young people think the old people are fools, but the old people know the young people are fools.”
Some of Christie’s best-known works are The ABC Murders (1936), And Then There Were None [also known as Ten Little Indians] (1945), The Mousetrap (longest ever running stage play in London, first performed in 1952), Hickory Dickory Dock (1955), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and Death on the Nile (1978). From her first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) “This affair must all be unravelled from within.” He tapped his forehead. “These little grey cells. It is ‘up to them’—as you say over here.” (Poirot, Ch. 10) to her last, Sleeping Murder (1976), Christie enjoyed a career that spanned over fifty years and her works have now sold into the billions. They have been translated to dozens of languages, inspired numerous other authors’ works, and have been adapted to radio, the stage, and film. As well as a writer of crime mysteries, she also read stories for BBC Radio, wrote non-fiction, romances, plays, and poetry.
Born in the family home Ashfield in Torquay, Devon, England on 15 September 1890, Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was the youngest of the three children born to Clarissa ‘Clara’ Margaret née Boehmer (1855-1926) and American Frederick Alvah Miller (1846-1901), who died when Agatha was just ten years old. The shy and sensitive Agatha, who was very close to her mother, had an older sister, Margaret ‘Madge’ (1879-1950) and brother Louis ‘Monty’ Montant (1880-1929). The family attended All Saint’s Church where Agatha was baptised. While she received no formal education, her mother and then governesses taught her at home to read before she entered finishing school in Paris, France in 1906. Having long been encouraged by her mother to write, Agatha continued to write there while also studying music (which became a life-long love), singing, and piano.
On 24 December 1914, at the age of twenty-four, Christie married Royal Flying Corps pilot Archie Christie, with whom she would have a daughter, Rosalind (1919-2004). During WWI Agatha worked as a nurse, tending to the ill and injured, many who were displaced Belgians. Their bewilderment and personal sorrows affected her deeply. She amassed a great deal of knowledge about sicknesses and poisons such as strychnine and ricin that she often featured in her novels. Around this time she also started writing her first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, an immediate best-seller. In 1926, profoundly grieving the death of her mother, Christie created some mystery of her own, disappearing for a time; when she was found she claimed that she had had a bout of amnesia.
In 1928, Archie divorced Agatha. She then set off on her first of many trips to the Middle East, travelling on the famed Orient Express from Calais, France to Baghdad, Iraq, then on to the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia. It was on her second trip there she met her future husband, archaeologist Sir Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan, (1904-1978). They were married in Scotland on 11 September 1930. She often accompanied him on digs as a member of the team, photographing and cataloguing finds. In 1960 Max was honoured as Commander of the British Empire (CBE) and in 1968 knighted for his archaeological work. Christie herself won many awards and honours in her life-time including; 1955, received the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master award; 1961, awarded an honorary degree from Exeter University; 1967, became president of The British Detection Club; and in 1971 she received England’s highest honour, the Order of the British Empire, Dame Commander.
In 1974 Christie appeared for the last time in public on opening night for her play Murder on the Orient Express. When she was not travelling the world, her and Max’s home in England was in the town of Wallingford, Oxfordshire, where she died peacefully on 12 January 1976. Max survived her by two years. They now rest together in the Parish Church cemetery of St. Mary’s in Cholsey, Oxfordshire.