A house fit for murder?!

Not really, of course. I’m talking about Greenway House in Devon, which was the summer home of ‘queen’ of crime writing Agatha Christie and where she wrote some of her books, set at least one murder scene, and no doubt got inspiration for plenty more.

We visited a few weeks ago. I’d never been before, although I had sailed past it on a river boat and had seen it mentioned in a couple of TV programmes, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Other writers’ homes I’ve been to have been a bit overly reverential, with guides pointing out in hushed tones where the Great Writer sat, which pen they used, and which sheet of paper wiped the Writerly Behind. Okay, I’m making that last bit up, but it sets the scene.

Mercifully, there was virtually none of that at Greenway, which is owned and run by the National Trust. Instead, they concentrate on the house as a family home to the whole Christie family, as a showcase for their vast collection of antiquities, art and antiques. And fascinating it is too. We spent a happy hour in the house, sheltering from heavy showers and exploring the older parts of the building (it dates back to Tudor times and was originally the home of Sir Walter Raleigh) and the wonderful objects stuffed into every room. As a bonus, there was lots of information about the archaeological digs Christie and her husband Sir Max Mallowan went on in the Middle East, together with exhibits they brought back.

Of course, as you might expect with such an illustrious author, there was mention of Christie’s books, together with an entire bookcase of all her first editions. But it didn’t take over, and there’s plenty to see and do here for people with less interest in crime fiction.

smallurnThere’s also a stunning garden, with paths zig-zagging down the steep slopes to the boat house on the River Dart, used as the scene of a murder in Dead Man’s Folly, as well as woodland, grassy slopes simply bursting with wild flowers, various ponds, and my own favourite – a fernery with a fountain, some old urns, and a wonderful air of lost romance.

We arrived and left on a river boat, stepping off at the quay and walking up to the house through the woods. The National Trust are actively encouraging their visitors to travel to the property in this way, which makes a nice change from so many cars. All in all it was a really lovely, enjoyable trip. My only (very small) gripes are that there wasn’t much information about the house’s Tudor history – and the tea room is very small! But I’m hoping to go back again next time I’m in the area.

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