Greenway Estate

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Greenway House
Greenway - Agatha Christie's House (26192476850).jpg
LocationGalmpton, Devon
Coordinates50°22′55″N 3°35′16″W / 50.381836°N 3.587771°W / 50.381836; -3.587771Coordinates: 50°22′55″N 3°35′16″W / 50.381836°N 3.587771°W / 50.381836; -3.587771
Builtc. 1780
Architectural style(s)Queen Anne
Governing bodyNational Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
Listed Building – Grade II
Official name: Greenway
Designated3 March 2004
Reference no.1001686
Greenway Estate is located in Devon
Greenway Estate
Location of Greenway House in Devon

Greenway, also known as Greenway House, is an estate on the River Dart near Galmpton in Devon, England. Once the home of the author Agatha Christie, it is now owned by the National Trust.

The estate is served by a steam railway service with trains from Paignton and Kingswear stopping at Greenway Halt station.


Location and early development: up to 1938[edit]

Greenway is located on the eastern bank of the tidal River Dart, facing the village of Dittisham on the opposite bank.[1] The estate is two miles from Galmpton, the nearest village,[2] and is in the South Hams district of the English county of Devon.[3] Greenway is three miles north of Dartmouth.[4] An early history book of Devon described Greenway as "very pleasantly and commodiously situated, with delightsome prospect to behold the barks and boats".[5]

Greenway was first mentioned in 1493 as "Greynway", the crossing point of the Dart to Dittisham.[6] In the late 16th century a Tudor mansion called Greenway Court was built by Otto and Katherine Gilbert, members of a Devon seafaring family. One of the family's ships was named The Hope of Greenway and, according to Sara Burdett's history of the estate, it is probable that they kept their ships moored in the river.[7] The couple had three sons, all born at Greenway. In 1583 one son, Sir Humphrey, took possession of Newfoundland for Elizabeth I, while his brother, Sir John, lived at Greenway. Humphrey and John's half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, also lived at the house.[8][9] In 1588 John was given the responsibility of 160 prisoners of war captured during the Spanish Armada; he put them to work on the estate, levelling the grounds.[3][10]

Little is known about the original Tudor building although, given the status of the family, Burdett considers it was "probably designed on a grand scale".[7] An archaeological examination of the current house's hallway shows evidence of a Tudor courtyard underneath.[7]

In around 1700 the Gilberts made nearby Compton Castle their family seat and sold Greenway to Thomas Martyn, a resident of Totnes, also in Devon. Over the next 90 years the house passed down through the Roopes—the family of Martyn's wife—until it was bequeathed to a distant relation of the family, Roope Harris, on the proviso that he changed his surname to Roope. Roope Harris Roope, as he became, built what is now the existing house in Georgian style.[11] Roope sold Greenway in 1791 to the Bristol Member of parliament (MP) Edward Elton for over £9,000.[a] Roope went bankrupt in 1800; Burdett opines that this could have been because of the amount of money spent on rebuilding Greenway.[13]

1854 Ordnance Survey map showing the house at Greenway

The Elton family developed the garden, with some remodelling by the landscape gardener Humphry Repton. At some point in the late 18th century the Tudor house was entirely demolished. Burdett considers it was possibly Roope,[13] while Historic England think it was more likely to have been Edward Elton.[3] Elton's son, James, took possession of the house upon the death of his father in 1811, and expanded the property, adding two wings to the house, for a dining room and drawing room. He also paid for a new road from Galmpton to Greenway ferry, which changed the access to the estate. When he sold the estate in 1832, it was much changed. A large kitchen garden, swimming pool, boat house and redesigned gardens. The estate was purchased, although only briefly, by a Sir Thomas Dinsdale, but was soon sold for £18,000 to Colonel Edward Carlyon,[b] whose family owned Tregrehan House, in Cornwall. The Carlyons did not make any significant alterations to the interior of the house; according to Burdett, they are likely the owners who introduced a rockery to the slope on the east of the house.[3][14]

A greenhouse in the walled garden, installed by Richard Harvey

Carlyon inherited Tregrehan House in 1842, and moved there the following year. Greenway was let out to a series of tenants until it was sold twice in quick succession, the last time to Richard Harvey—a Cornish copper and tin magnate—and his wife Susannah.[15] The Harveys developed the estate extensively, restoring the stables and lodge house, installing two new greenhouses and redecorating the interior. They restored much of Galmpton, including building the village school and the Manor Inn; Harvey also acquired the Lordship of the manor of Galmpton. Harvey died in 1870, his wife in 1882; they had no children to pass the estate on to, and it was sold for £44,000 to Thomas Bedford Bolitho.[c] Bolitho, the industrialist MP for St Ives, added what Burdett describes as "a Cornish influence"[16] on the gardens, introducing plants such as Camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and laurels. He built a new east wing to the house in 1892, which included a billiard room, study and bedrooms; this was demolished in 1938. Bolitho died in 1919 and the house passed to his daughter Mary, and her husband, Charles Williams, whose family owned Caerhays Castle near St Michael Caerhays, Cornwall. Between them the couple added several new varieties of plants from nurseries in Cornwall. In 1937 they returned to Cornwall and sold the estate to Alfred Goodson. He split up the estate and sold it off the following year. The house, with 36 acres (15 ha) of land, was available for sale for £6,000.[3][16][d]

Agatha Christie and later: 1938 onwards[edit]

Agatha Christie and Max Mallowan, who owned Greenways from 1938 until their deaths, pictured in Tell Halaf in the 1930s

In 1938 the writer Agatha Christie and her husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, were becoming disenchanted with their home in nearby Torquay. The town had changed in the previous years, and the once uninterrupted view of the sea had from the house became obstructed with new buildings.[17] Looking around south Devon, Christie saw Greenways was available. She had seen the property during her youth and always thought it "the most perfect of the various properties on the Dart".[18] In her later autobiography she wrote:

One day we saw that a house was up for sale that I had known when I was young ... So we went over to Greenway, and very beautiful the house and grounds were. A white Georgian house of about 1780 or 90, with woods sweeping down to the Dart below, and a lot of fine shrubs and trees – the ideal house, a dream house.[19]

The house was occupied by Christie and Mallowan until their deaths in 1976 and 1978 respectively, and featured, under various guises, in several of Christie's novels. Christie's daughter Rosalind Hicks and her husband Anthony lived in the house from 1968 until Rosalind's death in 2004.

The house in July 2008, under restoration

The Greenway Estate was acquired by the National Trust in 2000.[20] On 3 March 2004 Greenway was made a Grade II* listed building by English Heritage (now Historic England) under list number 1001686.[3] The Pevsner for Devon describes it as "tall, late-Georgian, stuccoed".[21] The gardens and parkland are Grade II listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.[22] The house and gardens are open to the public, as is the Barn Gallery. The large riverside gardens contain plants from the southern hemisphere, whilst the Barn Gallery shows work by contemporary local artists.

The Vinery

Inspiration for Agatha Christie's works[edit]

Agatha Christie frequently used places familiar to her as settings for her plots. Greenway Estate and its surroundings in their entirety or in parts are described in the following novels:[23]

The character Sir Carmichael Clarke, a wealthy man from Churston, is one of three victims to have a copy of the A.B.C. Railway Guide left by his body. Churston is two miles from Greenway Estate and the station before Greenway Halt on the steam railway line. Within the plot, the 'C' of 'A.B.C.' refers to Churston as well as the character's name.

The main house, the footpath leading from the main house to the battery overlooking the river Dart and the battery itself (where the murder occurs) are described in detail since the movements of the novel's protagonist at these locations are integral to the plot and the denouement of the murderer.

The location of the estate opposite the village of Dittisham, divided from each other by the river Dart, plays an important part for the alibi and a nightly swim of one of the suspects.

The boat house of Greenway Estate is described as the spot where the first victim is discovered, and the nearby ferry landing serves as the place where the second real murder victim is dragged into the water for death by drowning. Other places described are the greenhouse and the tennis court, where Mrs. Oliver placed real clues and red herrings for the "murder hunt". The lodge of Greenway Estate serves as the home of Amy Folliat, the former owner of Nasse House.

ITV's Agatha Christie's Poirot episode "Dead Man's Folly" was filmed there.[24]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ £9,000 in 1791 equates to approximately £1,060,000 in 2019, according to calculations based on Consumer Price Index measure of inflation.[12]
  2. ^ £18,000 in 1832 equates to approximately £1,640,000 in 2019, according to calculations based on Consumer Price Index measure of inflation.[12]
  3. ^ £44,000 in 1882 equates to approximately £4,350,000 in 2019, according to calculations based on Consumer Price Index measure of inflation.[12]
  4. ^ £6,000 in 1938 equates to approximately £380,000 in 2019, according to calculations based on Consumer Price Index measure of inflation.[12]


  1. ^ Burdett 2010, p. 4.
  2. ^ "Travelling to Greenway". National Trust.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Greenway House, Kingswear – 1108548". Historic England.
  4. ^ Andrews 2017, p. 101.
  5. ^ Gosling 1911, p. 11.
  6. ^ Proceedings at the Fifty-seventh Annual Meeting. The Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, p. 36.
  7. ^ a b c Burdett 2010, p. 9.
  8. ^ Scherman & Wilcox 1944, p. 68.
  9. ^ "Churston Ferrers and Galmpton". Torbay Council.
  10. ^ Rapple 2004.
  11. ^ Burdett 2010, pp. 9–10.
  12. ^ a b c d Clark 2018.
  13. ^ a b Burdett 2010, p. 10.
  14. ^ Burdett 2010, p. 11.
  15. ^ Burdett 2010, pp. 11–12.
  16. ^ a b Burdett 2010, p. 13.
  17. ^ Hack 2009, p. 152.
  18. ^ Christie 1990, p. 496.
  19. ^ Christie 1990, pp. 496–497.
  20. ^ Campbell, Sophie (24 February 2009). "Agatha Christie's home Greenway opens to the Devon public". The Daily Telegraph.
  21. ^ Pevsner & Cherry 1991, p. 525.
  22. ^ Historic England. "Greenway (1001686)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  23. ^ John Curran: "Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks - Fifty years of mystery in the making", Paperback edition, HarperCollinsPublishers 2010, ISBN 978-0-00-731057-9
  24. ^ Eirik. "Investigating Agatha Christie's Poirot: Episode-by-episode: Dead Man's Folly".



Journals and web sources[edit]

External links[edit]