Greenway House is a manor house surrounded by beautiful gardens, situated on the banks of the River Dart, in Devon, England. It was the summer home to one of the most popular novelists of all time, Agatha Christie. The estate is described in three of her novels: Five Little Pigs (1942), Towards Zero (1944) and Dead Man’s Folly (1956), although it wasn’t the first time that Christie used familiar places as settings in her novels. She also admired the beautiful landscapes of Devon and occasionally would express it in her books, through one of her characters.
The Tudor house that was built on the site in the 16th century was demolished and the Georgian mansion that stands in its place was most likely built in the late 18th century. Christie was 48 years old when she felt the need for a vacation refugee. In 1938, she noticed the cream-colored house for sale, 15 miles from her birthplace, the village of Torquay. The house was reachable only by a narrow lane or boat, which made it a perfect place to escape from the public. In her autobiography, Christie referred to Greenway as “the ideal house, a dream house.”
In addition, that same year, Christie and her husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, purchased the house for £6,000, today equal to $200,000. She was astonished by the price, which she felt was incredibly cheap for the 33-acre estate.
Christie made some alterations to the house, with the help of the young architect Guildford Bell. She also decorated it according to her taste. However, during World War II, the mansion was used by the US Navy as officers’ quarters, and Christie had to put Greenway out of her mind for a while.
When the Second World War ended, the house wasn’t damaged, but the Americans had left a pleasant surprise, according to Christie, in the library – a frieze painted in beiges and dark blues. The Admiralty kindly offered to repaint it, but Christie insisted on keeping it as a historic memorial.
Agatha and her husband were very attached to the estate and spent many happy moments there in the company of their family and friends. They also became very interested in gardening. Christie was very proud of Greenway’s garden and very often participated in the local flower and produce shows, winning prizes, while her husband, kept a planting book to note the camellias, a Magnolia campbellii, and other shrubs he planted that still flourish today.
Christie died at the age of 85 and the estate was inherited by her daughter, Rosalind, who moved in with her husband. She would sometimes open the house to Christie’s fans. In 2000, Rosalind and her husband gave the house to the Britain’s National Trust, but they continued living at Greenway until their deaths in 2004 and 2005.
The National Trust began the process of restoration that cost them £5.4 million. After it was completed, the house was restored to its former glory and was opened to the public. Many of Christie’s possessions are still in the rooms. She and her family were passionate collectors of many different types of items, and more than 11,000 objects are on display in the house. The collections include teapots, walking sticks, archeological mementos, boxes, and books.
Her grandson Mathew Prichard offered nearly 5,000 books to the collection in his favorite room, the library. The chair where Agatha used to sit with her reading is still there, in the corner, to the right of the fireplace. In the drawing room, Dame Agatha would amuse her family and friends by reading her manuscripts while they tried to guess ‘whodunit.’
Greenway House offers a close look at the author’s private world. Although Christie spent much of her time in the house, she hardly ever wrote at Greenway. The estate served more as a getaway from the everyday pressures of work and fame, where she could be a wife, mother, grandmother, and simply Mrs. Mallowan. Greenway House is the only surviving home of the Queen of Crime. She called it ‘the loveliest place in the world.’