Agatha Christie Mile Plaque - Torquay
Crime and Cream Teas Part II features more about my recent trip to the Agatha Christie Festival in her home town of Torquay. In Part I I wrote about my visit to Greenway, Agatha's holiday home but in this blog I am focusing on some of the other things I did.
The Agatha Christie Mile is a short, self guided walk mainly along the seafront, which takes visitors to places in Torquay associated with her. The route starts at the Grand Hotel and takes in several landmarks along the way, each one marked with a plaque.
Grand Hotel Torquay
The Grand Hotel, is a 4 star, seafront hotel which is where I stayed during my visit. It is where Agatha and Archie Christie, her first husband, spent their honeymoon after their wedding on Christmas Eve 1914.
Spanish Barn - Torre Abbey
Torre Abbey is also on the Agatha Christie Mile, and was the venue for several events during this year's festival. I attended two events which were held in the Abbey's historic Spanish Barn. The first was a fun filled Mystery Film night hosted by John Curran, a renound Christie expert. In the first half the audience were kept guessing while we listened to the Witness for the Prosecution radio play broadcast before enjoying a black and white 1934 version of Lord Edgware Dies.
On my second visit Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie’s grandson, was interviewed by Ben Stephenson, the Controller of Drama Commissioning at the BBC, about future Christie programmes including exciting plans for 2015, which will coincide with the 125th anniversary of her birth.
Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly Book Bench - Torre Abbey
While visiting Torre Abbey I was delighted to have the opportunity to see again the Agatha Christie Book Bench designed by Mandii Pope.
Ali Marshall at A Garden Party to Die for - Torre Abbey
One of my personal highlight of the week was attending A Garden Party to Die For (well it does involve cake) which was held in the grounds of Torre Abbey. Their poisonous plant display pays homage to Agatha's favourite method of killing her victims, as poison features in over half her novels. Ali Marshall, head gardener, talked about their the poisonous plants collection and Agatha's work as a pharmacist.
A Garden Party to Die for - Torre Abbey
The vintage style garden party had a 1930s theme with music, servants, tea and cake served on the lawn. The weather was just fabulous, the table laid out with sandwiches, scones and Battenberg cake and I was half expecting Miss Marple to appear, however I had to settle instead for 5 Poirots.
During the festival some of the businesses have Christie themed window displays. For example, Burridge's Tearooms had a vintage themed Black Coffee display which referred to the play on at the nearby Princess Theatre. The tearooms also do speciality daily scones and if you would like to find out more please read my Scones of the Month blog.
Princess Theatre - Torquay
During the festival murder mystery lovers were spoilt for choice with Christie's Black Coffee being performed at the Princess Theatre located on Torquay's seafront and The Unexpected Guest at the Palace Theatre in Paignton. Both productions were excellent and it was a real treat to attend the theatre twice in the one week.
Torquay Museum houses a permanent Agatha Christie Gallery which includes some of the art deco furniture that featured in the TV production of Poirot.
Shabti figures - Torquay Museum
Sorry photography was not allowed in the Christie Gallery, however the museum has other facinating displays which are worth exploring.
Torquay itself is worth exploring for its non Christie connections. The town is located around a horseshoe bay with a long, flat promenade which is very picturesquely lit by twinkling lights at night. Along the seafront there are some small parks and beautifully laid out gardens and the town itself is quite large with numerous cafes, restaurants and shops.
Oldway Mansion - Paignton
One of the unexpected discoveries of the holiday was a brief visit to Oldway Mansion. The house was originally built for Isaac Merritt Singer, founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, and which was rebuilt by his third son, Paris Singer, in the style of the Palace of Versailles. In more recent times the building has been used as council offices but currently is empty. Sadly I didn't get the chance to look inside but I found a video on youtube which shows its impressive grand staircase.
Video of Oldway Mansion
Agatha Christie Bust - Torquay
Returning to Agatha, this bronze bust is by the Dutch sculptor Carol Van Den Boom-Cairns and is a fitting place to end my blog.
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.
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.