Discover Agatha Christie’s hometown of Torquay and learn a little more about the famous writer and her enduring connection to Devon in this guest blog by Graham Kerr, owner of English Riviera Walking Tours.
Agatha Christie is a Torquinian!
That’s right, Torquay was her home town – where she was born and spent the first 30 years of her life. And yet, Agatha’s place of birth is often a mystery, even to her most loyal fans!
Agatha Christie Festival
She was born on 15 September 1890 and every year there’s an Agatha Christie Festival in Torbay to celebrate her birthday. This year, the event dates are 10-17 September, at which visitors will be treated to plays, talks from distinguished authors, swimming and golf events, boat rides to Agatha’s favourite beaches, roller discos on Torquay pier and there might even be a visit from a famous actor or two!
Agatha’s parents purchased Ashfield in 1880 for £2,000 with far-reaching views to Torbay and Dartmoor. She described it as a ‘truly happy home’. She spent many hours in their wonderful garden, picking flowers, playing games and using her servants to act in the plays she wrote!
Her brother and sister were sent to Harrow and Roedean respectively, while Agatha was home schooled – maths and music were her passions. At the age of 13, she started formal education at Miss Guyer’s Girls School in Torquay, but found it difficult to settle and at 15, she was sent to Finishing School in Paris, with the aim of becoming a classically trained pianist. However, she suffered from stage fright and was forced to give up this dream. Instead, for the next 3 years, she learned to sing opera, dance and speak French fluently, before returning to Torquay in search of a husband!
Engagement and Marriage
It was at a dance at Ugbrooke House near Chudleigh that she met Archie Christie, a pilot in the newly formed Royal Flying Corps and 3 months later, after watching a concert at Torquay’s Pavilion, he proposed to Agatha – her acceptance was much to her mother’s disappointment! When war broke out in July 1914, Archie was one of the first servicemen to be sent to meet the German advance. To contribute to the war effort, Agatha volunteered as a nurse working in Torquay. They married in Bristol on Christmas Eve 1914 and spent their honeymoon at The Grand Hotel in Torquay, but after just 2 nights, Archie returned to the Front.
In 1938, she purchased Greenway House in South Devon, her beautiful family home overlooking the River Dart, which became her summer retreat. She described it as the ‘loveliest place in the world’ and today it is open to the public and managed by the National Trust.
Visitors and locals are invited to hear the fascinating story of Agatha Christie’s extraordinary life by joining a walking tour around Torquay, which take place every day.
TO BOOK A TOUR CLICK HERE
About Graham and English Riviera Walking Tours
Inspired by taking a walking tour in London, I returned home to Torquay and discovered there were no full time tour guides in the town. So, I put my best foot forward and established English Riviera Walking Tours in 2020 (not the best year to start a new company!).
By the end of this year, nearly 1,000 guests will have joined the tours and I will have clocked up over 2 million steps!
Why Agatha? During lockdown, I began researching Agatha Christie and quickly realised that her personal life was just as fascinating as one of her novels! Whilst her films, books, and plays are familiar to many, surprisingly few people know the REAL Agatha Christie. This is why her walking tour has become so popular, especially now that her fans from across the world are able to travel again and hear her fascinating story.
Header image: Anstey’s Cove, Torquay Photographer Alex Graeme