Yesterday, I went on a trip to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home near Dartmouth in Devon. It was so wonderful! The sort of house that’s big but not too big, grand but not too grand. I could have moved straight in. Really, I could.
Christie and her archaeologist husband, Sir Max Mallowan, bought the house in the late ’30s for £6,000 – and that included the 33 acres of land that surround it!
In her autobiography, Christie writes:
… I asked its price, though without much interest. I didn’t think I had heard the answer correctly.
‘Sixteen thousand, did you say?’
‘Six thousand?’ I could hardly believe it. We drove home talking about it. ‘It’s incredibly cheap,’ I said.
In 1959, the house was transferred to Christie’s daughter who lived there permanently with her husband and son. It was given to the National Trust in 2000 and has only been open to the public since 2009.
We started off in Dartmouth and took the Christie Belle ferry up the Dart to Greenway.
There was no photography permitted in the house (which was a real shame), so I’ve taken these few interior pictures from the internet:
During the war, the house was requisitioned for use of the U.S. Navy and became the Officers’ Mess for the Coast Guard. During this time, Lt. Marshall Lee painted a mural around the wall of the library at Greenway:
When the house was returned to the Mallowans, they opted to keep the mural rather than paint over it. And a good decision that was too.
The best thing about the house is that it’s not museum-like. You can sit on most of the furniture. Well, perhaps not the tables. But the sofa in the sitting room was invitingly squishy. The other thing I loved about the house was the STUFF in it. The Mallowans were big collectors, as were Agatha Christie’s daughter and son-in-law who lived there later. Consequently, it’s jam-packed with their collections of … well, everything. China, paintings, clocks, watches, stamp boxes, pottery, glass, shell pictures, tapestries, etc. I could go on. The house is full of it and it’s all fascinating.
The grounds were rambling and wonderful and full of hidden corners. Not to mention the glorious views of the river.
And the greenhouses! During his life, Anthony Hicks, Agatha Christie’s son-in-law, ran a commercial nursery at Greenway. Since 2000, the greenhouses have been beautifully restored and are a joy to explore.
Plants are still sold at Greenway. I liked the way they were displayed – with signs telling you where to see them growing in the garden:
Agatha Christie didn’t write any of her books at Greenway. She saw it purely as a holiday home, and liked to escape from her work while she was there. She did, however, use the house as the backdrop for three of her murder mysteries, Five Little Pigs, Dead Man’s Folly and Ordeal by Innocence. Those, and all of her others, were for sale in the giftshop.
We ran out of time to explore the boathouse (I’ll save that for the next visit), but did pass it on the boat trip back to Dartmouth. It’s the spot where poor little Marlene Tucker met her end in Dead Man’s Folly.
Next time, I’ll try and allow more time so I can see everything. And, who knows. I might even convince the other half to book a week in the holiday apartment contained within the house. Though at over £2,000 a week, it’s not likely. For that price, I’d expect at least a murder or two!