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The Mysterious Affair at Harrogate - Agatha Christie's Disappearance

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Old Swan Hotel Harrogate

Old Swan Hotel - Harrogate

Earlier this month I fulfilled my long standing wish to stay at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate which has  connections with the  mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime.

On the evening of 3rd December 1926 Agatha left her home in Sunningdale and her 4 seater Morris Cowley car was later found abandoned at Newlands Corner in Surrey. By this time Agatha was aged 36 years old and was already a successful crime writer and her 6th novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd had just been published. Her sudden disappearance attracted both national and worldwide interest. The search for Agatha was the largest manhunt of the time, involving over 1,000 police officers and civilians, and reputedly the first search in England to use airplanes. Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) gave a medium one of her gloves in the hope of locating her, however Agatha's whereabouts remained a mystery for several days.  

Old Swan Hotel Harrogate

There was a lot of speculation surrounding Agatha's disappearance. Earlier that year Agatha's mother had died and Archibald Christie, her 1st husband, was having an affair with Nancy Neele, so this must have been a very sad and painful time in Agatha's life. One theory was that she was in a depressed state and suffering from a form amnesia. Others thought it was a publicity stunt or she may have done it to embarrass her husband. Whatever the reasons it appears she left her car and travelled by train, via London, to Harrogate in Yorkshire. Harrogate is a very elegant town and at the time it was also a very fashionable spa resort.

Old Swan Hotel

Revolving doorway and receiption area

Arriving at the hotel Agatha checked in with very little luggage under the name of Mrs Teresa Neele, the family name of her husband's mistress. Incidentally the price for a week's stay at the time was just £5.50. It appears that Agatha enjoyed her visit, mingled with the other guests and joined in the dances and other entertainment.

After 10 days Bob Tappin, a banjo player at the Swan Hydro (as the Old Swan Hotel was known at the time), recognised Agatha and informed the police and Archibald Christie travelled to the hotel to collect his wife. 

 Old Swan Hotel Agatha Christie Plaque

 Agatha's Retreat Plaque

The Old Swan Hotel today has a few reminders of its most famous former guest the first one being a brass plaque recalling her visit which is located on the ground floor next to the staircase.

 Old Swan Hotel Agatha Christie Newspaper

Agatha's newspaper

By the plaque is a copy of the Daily Sketch newspaper reporting that Mrs Agatha Christie Found Alive.

Old Swan Hotel Harrogate

While I originally chose the Old Swan for its Christie connections the hotel has totally charmed me. The present building, which had lots of character, dates from the 1840s and is on the site of an earlier hotel that goes back to 1700. Set in its own beautiful ground it's just a few minutes walk from the much loved Bettys tearooms and the delightful Montpellier Quarter.

 Old Swan Hotel

 Luggage and Garage Signs

 Old Swan Hotel

Cocktail Lounge sign - guess where we are going next?

 Old Swan Hotel

Lounge and Bar

Old Swan Hotel

 The Garden Room and Ballroom

The impressive Garden Room and Ballroom features in the film Agatha, which provides a fictitious account of her disappearance.

 Old Swan Hotel Ballroom Plaque

 The Ballroom Plaque

In 1977 the film Agatha, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman, was filmed at the Old Swan.

Joss Stone's I Put a Spell on You video has footage from the film Agatha, including the Ballroom scene at 1:26

 Old Swan Hotel

Wedgewood Restaurant

I was very lucky to book a good deal for dinner, bed and breakfast which meant I enjoyed several meals in the hotel's beautiful Wedgewood Restaurant, with its impressive glass ceiling.

Old Swan Hotel

The lift

The lift shaft surrounded by the stairs totally fascinated me, yes I know its totally geeky.

 Old Swan Hotel

 Bedroom

I really enjoyed my stay at the Old Swan and my room was very comfortable.

 Old Swan Hotel

My room overlooked the front of the hotel and I loved that in the evenings the Swan sign and the trees in the garden were illuminated. 

Agatha’s autobiography makes no reference to the events surrounding her infamous disappearance so this is the one Christie mystery which will forever remain unsolved.

If you're thinking of visiting Harrogate I've listed a few websites below of the places I visited and which I hope you will find useful.

Practical Information

Address:  The Old Swan Hotel, Swan Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 2SR

Website:  Old Swan Hotel

Nearest Train Station:  Harrogate. Trains depart from London King's Cross.

Other useful websites for places to visit in Harrogate:

Visit Harrogate 

Montpellier Quarter

Royal Pump Room Museum

Mercer Gallery

Valley Gardens

Bettys the legendary tea rooms

Stuzzi Italian restaurant

Space vintage shop

If you enjoyed this you might like reading my other blogs about Agatha Christie.

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