Greenway was Agatha Christie's beloved holiday home in Devon and seems a good place to start the first installment of my blog about the recent Agatha Christie Festival. This annual crime writing festival takes place in and around Torquay, Agatha's birthplace, each September to coincide with her birthday. Since my last visit in 2011 the festival has certainly grown both in the numbers of visitors and organised events.
Today Greenway is managed by the National Trust who have set the property in the 1950s, when Agatha and her family would spend their summer and Christmas vacations here. The house is set in beautifully maintained grounds and hidden away in a stunning location, sitting on a hill overlooking the River Dart. There are a variety of fun ways to travel to Greenway including ferry and steam train but for my return visit here I once again travelled on Barnaby, a 1950s vintage bus.
Greenway - was being re-painted when I visit
Greenway was Agatha and Max Mallowan's, Agatha's second husband, holiday home from 1938 until their deaths in 1976 and 1978 respectively. Also Rosalind Hick, Agatha's daughter from her first marriage, lived in the house from 1968 until her death in 2004.
Agatha described it as "The lovelist place in the World" and it was her family retreat. She never wrote any of her books here although she would read through her manuscripts and the house also features in some of her books.
Agatha aged four years old with Rosie her doll - painted by Douglas John Connah
To me the charm of Greenway is that it is very much understated, it is presented very much as a family home rather than the house of the world's most famous crime writer, which gives it a charming, intimate feel.
The first room is Morning Room which displays the family's large eclectic collection including a portrait of a very young Agatha.
The drawing room was where the family would gather in the evenings to listen to music and play games. This was my favourite room as it had a very homely feel to it with the dominos and house of cards in the middle of the room.
Steinway piano - Drawing Room
One of the best things about the visit was the volunteer room stewards who were friendly and knowledgable. While in the drawing room admiring the Steinway piano I was informed that Agatha trained as a concert pianist but was too shy to perform in public. Visitors are allowed to play the piano, although the guidebook says "Chopsticks" is discouraged!
Sheet music - in Agatha's maiden name
"One Hour with Thee" was a composed by Agatha, as a waltz for the piano, when she was just 17 years old.
Written by Agatha during a game of Confessions
One of the family's favourite games was Confessions where players would answer a variety of questions in an album. Above is Agatha's hand written list and I was delighted to find she had written Edith Cavell as one of her real life heroines.
The bedroom is laid out as it would have been when Agatha stayed here. In the corner is Max's campaign bed which he took with him on archaeological digs and found so comfortable he also used it at Greenway.
Agatha's closet with a selection of Agatha and Rosiland's clothes
A selection of artifacts from archaeological digs
Drinks tray in the library
During World War II Greenway was occupied by Flotilla 10 of the US Coastguard. In 1943 Lieutenant Marshall Lee painted a decorative freize in the library depicting the flotilla's significant events during the war.
No bodies in the library just chocolates
Despite the inclement weather on the day I visited, which sadly meant I didn't explore the gardens, I had a fabulous visit. The house provides a subtle but wonderful glimpse into Agatha's personal life and her varied interests and talents and is well worth visiting.
The next Agatha Christie Festival is in September 2015. During the festival various events are held including film screenings, talks, garden parties and theatre shows. For more information check their website.
Address: Greenway House, Greenway Road, near Brixham, TQ5 0ES
Details about opening times and admission costs can be found on the National Trust's website here.
Information about the vintage bus trips on Barnaby to Greenways can be found here.
My 2nd blog about the other events at the Christie Festival will be posted soon but in the meantime if you'd like to read more about Agatha you can read my other blog posts about her.
I lead bespoke guided tours round Agatha Christie's London.
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.