In the middle of April, I spent five days at Greenway. This is the country home of Agatha Christie, on the banks of the River Dart, just across the water from the pretty village of Dittisham.
Greenway House was built in 1792 but Agatha bought the property in 1938 and spent many holidays here. The house is large and square and stuccoed in cream. It looks over lawns and trees and a magnificent array of magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias. The sun shone for the whole time we were there and the shrubs were at their very best. Since 2009, Greenway has been a National Trust property and the old servants' quarters have been turned into an apartment that can sleep 10 people. It's comfortable and also old-fashioned....you feel that Agatha herself might easily come walking into the lounge or sit at the dressing table in one of the bedrooms. In the bookshelf in my room, for instance, I found a Gwen Raverat's Period Piece with this dedication:
I read and loved Agatha Christie back in the 1950s and early 60s, but now have a personal connection with the Queen of Crime. My daughter, Sophie Hannah, has written a new Hercule Poirot novel and has been obsessed with all things Christie for eighteen months or so. The name of this novel is embargoed till tonight but I will put it up in a comment below this post so if you want to see what it is, come and have a look tomorrow.
Here is one of the paths leading down to the river. Agatha was very keen on gardening and there are gardening books on many bookshelves. The planting is inspired. Periwinkles, bluebells, tulips, fuchsia and banks and banks of azaleas make a walk around the property a real pleasure.
This typewriter was on the windowsill at the end of the passage in the guest apartment. I suppose that means it's not actually the one Agatha wrote on...that would have been moved to the House itself. Still, it's an old machine and it's here so I like to think she must have written at least a letter or two on it. It is, whoever used it, a beautiful object, I think.
The first thing that strikes you as you walk around the house is what a collector Agatha was. Here are some snuffboxes, but she also assembled a great deal of crockery, ornaments, books, pictures, and assorted pieces of archaeological pottery, connected to the work of her husband, Max Mallowan. She used to accompany him to his archaeological sites and work on her books while he was overseeing the digs.
This doll ( above) has, like a great many dolls, a touch of the sinister about her. Below is the portrait of Agatha when she was four. I love it because the artist has captured exactly a kind of sulky boredom that's not often depicted by artists.
And here is the top of the grand piano, full of family photos.
There are several dressers in the house. On this one, alongside the crockery, is a skull, which struck me as appropriate.
A great many books are displayed both in the house and in the apartment. You can see scrapbooks and letters and on various tables there are envelopes addressed to the author, looking as though they've just been delivered. I wanted to take photos of these but for some reason my camera decided to malfunction just at that moment.
Here are some of the toys arranged on a sofa. I love the mad look on the eyes of the doll on the left. And that teddy has been loved to bits by someone, maybe even Agatha herself.
Finally, wisteria, growing beside the greenhouse in the Walled Garden. The greenhouse is full of tropical plants and cacti. There are espaliered trees, and a herb garden with everything in it: sage, marjoram, lemon balm, dill, orange-scented thyme, rosemary, and bay.
Agatha Christie called Greenway "The loveliest place in the world." She had travelled widely but Greenway's tranquil atmosphere, and the thousand shades of green that she could see from the windows of her house made this place into the best kind of home. Her benevolent and inspiring presence is everywhere here. If you find yourself in the area, it's a wonderful place to visit. I loved my time there.