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Agatha Christie’s Biggest Mystery

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

In December 1926, Agatha Christie was a thirty-six year old, established crime writer, when she mysteriously disappeared. Early on the morning of December 3rd, Colonel Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps, had asked Agatha for a divorce because he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele. He then packed up and went to spend the weekend with his mistress. Later that evening, Agatha left the house leaving two notes; one for her brother-in-law saying she was going to Yorkshire and one for the town constable saying she feared for her life. Her crashed car was found nearby, hanging over the edge of a chalk pit, with her fur coat,  suitcases and identity papers thrown about the car and Agatha nowhere to be found.  A massive manhunt began which included the dredging of a large pond and thousands of police and locals joining to scour the countryside. The manhunt included the first use of airplanes to search for missing people. Archie Christie seemed unconcerned when summoned, yes, he had to be summoned to the crash site, and simply stated his wife was a mysterious and calculating woman, who probably made the whole thing up to promote her latest book! Astonished, the constable placed Archie at the top of the suspect list and had his phone tapped, where his affair and want of a divorce was soon discovered.

As the days went on, the search spread out to all parts of Great Britain. Fellow mystery writers got involved: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took one of Agatha’s gloves to a noted psychic and Dorothy L. Sayers visited Agatha’s house and the place where the car was found.

It wasn’t until December 14th that the search ended. As it turned out, Agatha had walked to the train station, after crashing her car, and took a train to London. In London she went shopping for  clothes and a new coat and then took the train to Harrogate, which she had seen on an advertisement at the train station.

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

She checked into The Old Swan Hotel and Spa on the 4th of December under a false name (using, ironically, the surname of Archie’s mistress) Harrogate was the height of elegance in the 1920s and filled with fashionable people looking for fun and excitement. Agatha Christie did nothing to arouse suspicions as she joined in dining, playing billiards, going for spa treatments and attending the balls and dances at the Palm Court at the Swan Hotel.

She even placed an advertisement in the newspaper offering where Teresa Neele was staying.

She was eventually recognized by one of the hotel’s banjo players, Bob Tappin, who alerted the police. They tipped off her husband, Colonel Christie, who came to collect Agatha immediately. Agatha seemed confused and mis-identified Archie as her brother.

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, UK

Agatha was brought home and was quickly and completely hidden from reporters.

Because nobody was providing any answers, various scenarios would later be given by the newspapers as theories as to what had happened: temporary amnesia, a nervous breakdown, a plot of revenge to embarrass and humiliate her husband, or a publicity stunt to increase sales of her books. Nobody knew for certain what had transpired. And nobody knows to this day. Agatha never, ever mentioned the episode again. Her divorce was finalized two years later.

And in the end the police charged Agatha Christie for the pay of all the police, and the use of the airplanes during their search for her.

So as noted in my previous post, I was not happy about missing the trip to Harrogate and exploring the Swan Hotel, which was a priority for me. But, as it turned out, my hubby took the time to go to the Hotel and take photos for me and while there he discovered that the Hotel was offering Agatha Christie Mystery Dinners during the month of November, in honor of the 90th anniversary of Agatha’s disappearance. It was a themed mystery taking place in Egypt among the archeologists. Everyone was to dress the part. My husband promptly signed himself up along with a business associate, another man, to attend the mystery dinner. When he told me about it I thought it would be a lot of fun and noted most people would dress the part. On the night of the event, many were indeed dressed in sheik’s robes, archeological dig clothing, or dresses of the roaring twenties, except for said two men. There was even a mix up in their names, since the hotel didn’t think two men would be attending the event together and it must have been a mistake in names, so changed one of the place tag names from Mr O——-, to just Olivia. The men had a good laugh and proceeded with the mystery.  During the dinner, several actors staged sketches and then went around to the ten various tables offering clues and talking to the guests. By the end of the evening the guests at each table were  to collectively name the killer. Table Ten did not discover the correct killer, but had a great time with their table mates, four women from Spain, four women from London, and two men from the US, in trying to figure the mystery out.

The Actors at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

The Actors at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

The Actors at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

The Actors at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

It was soon discovered that one of the finely dressed women at this table was actually a 6 foot-five inch, well built man, named Bill! (the guest with the dangling earrings) Great costume Bill!

Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

Actors and Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

Actors and Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

The Big Fight Skit during the Agatha Christie Murder Mystery Dinner

The Big Fight Skit during the Agatha Christie Murder Mystery Dinner

Another Death to Deal With!

Another Death to Deal With!

Table Ten

Table Ten

Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

And to top off the evening….. The Swan dessert!

 Actors and Guests at Agatha Christie Dinner Mystery, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, UK

A great time was had by all and one thing is for sure. Agatha Christie is still the greatest mystery writer of all time, even her own!

Tomorrow will be the last day in Harrogate. Won’t you join me to find out all about it? See you then!

 

The Gardens at Agatha Christie’s Greenway

 

The Walled Gardens at Greenway

The Old Garden Walls at Greenway

Let’s take a walk through the gardens at Greenway! What’s through this doorway?

 

Let's Look Here First, Greenway

Let’s Look Here First, Greenway

Tennis Anyone?

Tennis Anyone?

Or this one?

A Walk Through the Greenway Gardens

A Walk Through the Greenway Gardens

The Wildflower Bank at Greenway

The Wildflower Bank at Greenway

The Walkway at Greenway

The Walkway at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

This Doorway takes us to the Peach House!

The Peach House at Greenway

The Peach House at Greenway

The Walkway to the Peach House

The Walkway to the Peach House

The Peach House

The Peach House

I decided to take a little break and sit on one of the benches that overlooked the grounds around the Peach House. I soon had a little friend! He would come down from the tree and talk to me and as soon as someone would start to come close to us he would fly back up into the tree. As soon as the intruders were gone, back he came to talk to me! He flew up and down for over fifteen minutes!

My Overhead Shot of the Tree Where My Bird Friend Hid

My Overhead Shot of the Tree Where My Bird Friend Hid

My Bird Friend

My Bird Friend

The Vegetable Garden at Greenway

The Vegetable Garden and Greenhouses at Greenway

The Area Beyond the Wall is Called the Plantation

The Area Beyond the Wall is Called the Plantation, at Greenway

Here is the Fountain Garden.

The Fountain Garden at Greenway

The Fountain Garden at Greenway

The Pet Cemetery at Greenway

The Pet Cemetery at Greenway

And the pet cemetery!

A Look at the Restaurant and the Gift Shop Area at Greenway

A Look at the Restaurant and the Gift Shop Area at Greenway

One last look at the converted stables that are now the restaurant, garden shop and gift area at Greenway.

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Flowers at Greenway

The Gardens at Greenway are not formal. They are restful, flowing, and carefree. Just like the holiday home for Agatha and her family was meant to be! I hope you enjoyed your walk! See you tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

Greenway, the Holiday Home of Agatha Christie

Greenway House, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie

Greenway House, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie

At Entry to Greenway

At Entry to Greenway

Wipe your feet before you enter!

I think what I liked best about Greenway, Agatha Christie’s holiday home in Devon, was it was a home where I could see Agatha and her guests enjoying themselves. There were rooms, many rooms, filled to the brim with her collections; cupboards with stacks and stacks of dishes, her finds from her travels, games and puzzles scattered everywhere. The rooms reminded me of me; I like to collect things, especially from my travels, and find my treasures very comforting remembrances. One gets the feeling that Agatha is here in the house and as you wander from room to room you know you will find her right around the corner! This home is well loved and well looked after, so let’s take a peek inside!

The Drawing Room at Greenway

The Drawing Room at Greenway

The Drawing Room at Greenway

The Drawing Room at Greenway

The pillows have sentences from her books printed on them!

The Drawing Room at Greenway, (Notice the Dominoes on the Floor)

The Drawing Room at Greenway, (Notice the Dominoes on the Floor)

The Piano at Greenway

The Piano at Greenway

In the drawing room is the piano she played only to entertain herself, never to entertain her guests.

Old Photos at Greenway

Old Photos at Greenway

The Fishing Gear is Ready!

The Fishing Gear is Ready!

The fishing gear and picnic supplies are by the stairs in case you want a quiet spot at the river before dinner.

The Library at Greenway

The Library at Greenway

The Library at Greenway

The Library at Greenway

The Library at Greenway

The Library at Greenway

The library is comfy-cozy with a drink’s table by the door, just like in the old movies, and the frieze painted on three sides of the library’s upper walls is a timeline of WWII.  The frieze painted by U.S. Lt. Marshall Lee looks fresh, like it was painted only yesterday. Greenway was acquisitioned during the war, as an officers’ mess, and officers from the 10th U.S. Coast Guard flotilla headquartered here before D-Day.  When Agatha came back to the house after the war she wanted the frieze to stay, but the 16 makeshift bathrooms to go! 

Agatha's Closet

Agatha’s Closet

Her clothes are hung in the bedroom closet and her bags are packed and ready for the next adventure.

Books in the Library at Greenway

Books in the Library at Greenway

Love This Bookcase!

Love This Bookcase!

Love This Bookcase!

Love This Bookcase!

The Bathroom at Greenway

The Bathroom at Greenway AND

The Books in the Bathroom

The Books in the Bathroom

There are books everywhere in every room! Some are in very interesting bookcases! I loved the end-table spinning bookshelves! There is a small library of books even in the bathroom! 

Just One of the Pantries Full of Dish Collections!

Just One of the Pantries Full of Dish Collections!

Just One of the Pantries Full of Dish Collections!

Just One of the Pantries Full of Dish Collections!

The Kitchen at Greenway

The Kitchen at Greenway

The Kitchen and Pantry are always interesting to me! Look at all the dishes! Agatha’s mother and grandmother were collector’s too. You can never have enough dishes! Be sure to notice the typewriter in the kitchen. More about that further in the post!

The Dining Room at Greenway

The Dining Room at Greenway

The Dining Room at Greenway

The Dining Room at Greenway

I watched an elderly gentleman pick up every plate on the dining room table making sure they were made in England! The plates were beautiful!

One of the COLLECTIONS at Greenway

One of the COLLECTIONS at Greenway

One of the COLLECTIONS at Greenway

One of the COLLECTIONS at Greenway

One of the COLLECTIONS at Greenway

One of the COLLECTIONS at Greenway

A Portrait of Agatha with Some of Her Treasures

A Portrait of Agatha with Some of Her Treasures

One of the COLLECTIONS at Greenway

One of the COLLECTIONS at Greenway

And the Dinner Gong!

And the Dinner Gong!

There were so many treasures to look at I asked one of the National Trust guides if everything was left at Greenway. She replied that the family (her grandson) took everything he wanted, but there was still plenty left over! Oh my, I’ll say!

Agatha never wrote at Greenway. She came here to relax, to read and go over her notebooks, many times reading her current mystery to her family and friends in the evenings. However, there is a writing project going on as part of the activities and events at Greenway and old typewriters are placed throughout the house, and even in the kitchen, where one can leave a message for Agatha. Some of the messages are posted on a Twitter account #Type Greenway! Very interactive! 

Greenway is one of my favorite National Trust properties, I loved everything about it. And tomorrow we’ll take a look at the gardens at Greenway! See you there!

A Day With Agatha Christie at Greenway: Getting There

Agatha Christie's Tour Bus, Greenway

Agatha Christie’s Tour Bus, (a 1947 Leyland Tiger PS1/1 single decker with Barnaby bodywork)

Agatha Christie's Tour Bus, Greenway

Agatha Christie’s Tour Bus, Greenway

I am so excited to be visiting Greenway House, the holiday home of Agatha Christie. It is the first private residence of the famous author to be opened to the public. Greenway House is situated on a 278 acre estate on the Dart River in Devon. I will be dividing the posts into several sections since there is so much to talk about and it is all so very interesting! Now let’s get on the tour bus, so to speak!

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born September 15, 1890 into a wealthy, upper middle-class family in Ashfield, Torquay, Devon. Agatha described her childhood as “very happy”, but that her childhood was over when her father died when she was eleven. She was surrounded by strong and independent women, (her mother and her grandmother especially) believing her mother was a psychic with the ability of second sight. She described her grandmother and her cronies as “always expecting the worst of everyone and everything, and were, with almost frightening accuracy, usually proved right.” Her mother insisted that Agatha be educated at home, so her parents were responsible for teaching her to read (which she loved) and write, and basic arithmetic, which she also enjoyed. In 1905 she was sent to Paris to further her education, but returned in 1910 when her mother was ill. They decided to go to Egypt, (a popular tourist destination for wealthy Brits at that time) to spend time in a warmer climate, and stayed three months at the Gezirah Palace Hotel, attending social functions with her mother. They were on the prowl for a husband for Agatha! 

Upon return to England Agatha met Archibald Christie at a dance given by Lord and Lady Clifford at Ugbrooke, near Torquay. Archie was born in India, the son of a judge in the Indian Civil Service. By 1913 he was an army officer in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple married on Christmas Eve in 1914, while Archie was home on leave.

Agatha involved herself in the war effort, joining the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) in 1914, and assisted with wounded soldiers at a hospital in Torquay as an unpaid VAD nurse. She was responsible for aiding the doctors and maintaining morale; she performed 3,400 hours of unpaid work between October 1914 and December 1916. She qualified as an “apothecaries’ assistant” (or dispenser) in 1917 and, as a dispenser, she earned £16 a year until the end of her service in September 1918. In her spare time she wrote.

She was initially unsuccessful at getting her work published, but in 1920 The Bodley Head press published her novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, featuring the character of Hercule Poirot. This launched her literary career.

Agatha Christie created several series’ characters during her writing career, but her best known was Hercule Poirot. Christie, was a fan of detective novels, having enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s early Sherlock Holmes stories. In her detective novel, Poirot was a former Belgian policeman noted for his twirly large magnificent moustaches and egg-shaped head. Christie’s inspiration for this stemmed from real Belgian refugees who were living in Torquay. He appeared in 33 novels, one theatrical play, and more than 50 short stories He first appeared in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) and last appeared in Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case (1975) which famously features his death. While her fans loved Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie herself was increasingly fed up with her creation. Late in her career, she described him as “an egocentric creep.”

In 1926, Archie Christie wanted to marry his mistress, Nancy Neele, and asked Agatha for a divorce. Agatha, totally overwrought, left her home and then abandoned her car at a chalk quarry, before disappearing for ten days. There has been a lot of speculation as to what exactly went on during this time. It has been suggested that Agatha disappeared to embarrass her husband, and call him out on the divorce, (mistress and all) or that it had possibly been a publicity stunt to promote her next book. However, when she was found at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate having registered under a false name, two doctors diagnosed her as suffering from amnesia and a depressed state from literary overwork, her mother’s death earlier that year and her husband’s infidelity. Agatha never spoke of the incident again.

A quote from Agatha; “I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

Life goes on………. and Miss (Jane) Marple was introduced in the short stories called The Thirteen Problems in 1927 and was based on Christie’s grandmother and her cronies.

In 1930 Agatha married Sir Max Mallowen, (14 years her junior) having met him during an archaeological dig. Her travels with him contributed backgrounds for several of her novels set in the Middle East.

Agatha Quote; An archaelogist is the best husband a women can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her.

In 1938, Agatha Christie, now independently wealthy from her writing, returned to Torbay and purchased a Georgian Manor, named Greenway. Greenway would be the setting for several of her books.

She also wrote six romances under the name Mary Westmacott, but she is best known for the 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections that she wrote under her own name, most of which revolve around the investigative work of such characters as Hercule Poirot, and Jane Marple.

Agatha Quote; I specialize in murders of quiet, domestic interest.

She returned to Greenway again and again in her fiction, setting many of her classic murder mysteries at the beach, cove and island. Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple both ventured to Torbay to solve heinous crimes. While Greenway was never Agatha’s primary residence, it was for a generation the family holiday retreat—where the family gathered for Christmas and Easter, and where she spent her summers. In 1950 Christie turned the house over to her daughter Rosalind Christie Hicks and in 2000 Greenway was transferred to The National Trust. Today, Greenway is restored and furnished as Christie and Max Mallowen would have known it in the 1950s.

 

Christie Mysteries Set Locally

  • Peril at End House
  • Sleeping Murder
  • The ABC Murders
  • The Body in the Library
  • And Then There Were None
  • Evil Under the Sun
  • Dead Man’s Folly
The Ferry Stop at Greenway

The Ferry Stop at Greenway

Greenway is not easy to get to. The preferred and recommended method of arrival is by boat—passenger ferry from Torbay, Dartmouth, or across the river from Dittisham. Any way you arrive at the quay, it is a 400-yard climb up hill to the house and gardens. This is not a trip for those with limited mobility.

The Lane to Greenway, Devon, UK

The Lane to Greenway, Devon, UK

Now that we have had a little background on Agatha let’s continue to make our way to Greenway! Take a good look at that narrow country lane! It is the Green Way, aptly named!  Arriving by car and getting closer to our destination, we first meandered through a neighborhood of Galmpton and then came upon this mile or so of narrow lane to Greenway. See that little extra pavement to the right in the photo? That is how much room you have to pull over if another car or bus approaches! Add to that the idiots that do not read the details of visiting Greenway. You MUST reserve a parking space that is available in 3 hour increments at Greenway House. If you don’t have a permit, pre- arranged, you will be turning your car around and heading home! Now some think it is OK to just park your car in this tiny strip and walk on to Greenway! Now how do the cars pull over when another car approaches???? This is an adventure all in itself. Once you reach the parking lot there is another extended hike up to the house. Golf carts are available to pick you up, but you must register for assistance and the wait can be lengthy as there are over 900 visitors a day.

But, we got here, Leon (the car) was all in one piece and I had my reservation to park, so what’s another walk? The house itself is surrounded by walled gardens, orchards and woodland gardens, so the walk was pleasant.

The Walled Gardens of Greenway

The Walled Gardens of Greenway

Navelwort in Walled Garden at Greenway

Navelwort in Walled Garden at Greenway

The stables and other out buildings have been converted to a gift shop and an eatery, so you can stop and enjoy this area before going on up to the house. What a beautiful view of the river and grounds from the front of the house!

A View of the River Dart at Greenway

A View of the River Dart at Greenway

A View of the River Dart at Greenway

A View of the River Dart at Greenway

There are lawn chairs to sit and enjoy this view either before or after visiting the house.

The Lawn Chairs at Greenway

The Lawn Chairs at Greenway

Greenway, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie

Greenway, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie

Greenway, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie

Greenway, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie

Greenway, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie

Greenway, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie at Greenway

Agatha Christie at Greenway

Let’s go in! See you tomorrow!

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