The collection at Greenway
Greenway House is home to a vast collection of fascinating and unusual items. Each treasure reflects a different aspect of Greenway’s history and the passions shared by Agatha Christie and her family. From skull jars and Tunbridge ware to a Second World War frieze, below are some of the weird and wonderful artefacts that can be found at this Devon holiday home.
Agatha Christie's love of collecting was instilled in her as a child by her grandparents and parents. As an adult, her passion was shared by her second husband, Max Mallowan, her daughter Rosalind, her son-in-law Anthony and her grandson Mathew.
When living at Greenway, the family loved going to nearby salerooms to support local artists and craftworkers. This added to their ever-growing collection.
Nestled in Greenway's collection is a spooky skull tobacco jar and lid. From late 19th-century Japan, the ceramic jar is even more unusual as a ceramic frog sits on top of the skull's lid.
Agatha Christie's novels often dealt with death and crime mystery, so it's no surprise to find a reminder of death in the collection.
It was brought to Greenway by Agatha and was used to store Max's tobacco. While the exact date of arrival is unknown, it's listed on an inventory that was taken just before the requisition of Greenway House by the US Coastguard in 1942.
This wooden box may look like it contains vials of poison that you might find in one of Agatha Christie's mysteries. However, it actually contains 40 glass bottles of homeopathic medicine.
There are more than 80 pieces of Tunbridge ware at Greenway, including trays, jewellery stands, trinket boxes and games boxes. Originating in the early 18th century and particularly popular during the mid-19th century, Tunbridge ware was characteristically decorated with marquetry to form a design or picture.
Portrait of a young Agatha
Prominently displayed in the Morning Room is a portrait of Agatha as a young girl. Entitled Lost in Reverie, it was painted by the American artist Douglas John Connah. It shows Agatha at the age of four, clutching her beloved doll, Rosie.
The same doll is also on display just below the portrait. Rosie was made in France by the company Jumeau, which was famed for making dolls with painted faces and detailed clothing that followed popular fashions of the time.
Agatha and Max’s methodical approach to collecting was nowhere more evident than in their silver collection. Totalling 290 pieces, their collection was representative of nearly every year of manufacture from 1648 to 1836.
Agatha even made a detailed list of the individual items. This included valuable details of how and where the pieces were acquired, from candlesticks and tea pots to bleeding bowls and ear trumpets.
The whole family collected Stevengraphs. Made in Coventry during the 19th century, these rare silk pictures woven on a Jacquard loom were named after Thomas Stevens, who originally wove ribbons before producing these pictures.
Being made from silk, many such pictures deteriorated in the sun, which makes the set at Greenway so rare.
The shell picture is usually found hanging in the Morning Room. It’s one of a pair of pictures that were created around 1800. Similar pictures are thought to have been produced in shipping ports and were popular with sailors, who brought them home for their sweethearts.
Like the rest of us, the many residents of Greenway have had to battle the great British weather. This particular umbrella has a black wooden handle topped with a decorative egg made from tiger's eye, a beautiful reddish-brown gemstone.
Sports and outdoor games were the order of the day in the summer months at Greenway. This croquet mallet is usually found by the stairs along with other games equipment, fishing rods and more.
It’s made of wood and was purchased from Harrods in London. There are photos within the collection of people playing on the croquet lawn to the side of the house at Greenway.
Lobster serving dish
Greenway’s Dining Room was made for enjoying decadent meals with loved ones, and was particularly used during the holidays. Lobster was Agatha Christie’s favourite food, and on her 80th birthday she dined on lobster, blackcurrant ice cream and avocado.
The perfect centrepiece for a dinner celebration is Greenway’s white majolica serving dish. It’s made of three parts and includes a large, superimposed lobster. It can usually be found in the Dining Room.
Books in the Library
You’d expect any author’s home to be filled with books, and Greenway certainly is. There’s a 5,000-strong book collection, most of which is contained in the lower bookcases that line the walls of the Library.
The range of books give a good feel for the varied interests of the different family members. Subjects range from Buddhism to gardens and antiques.
On display upstairs in the fax room is a collection of first editions of Agatha’s books. The Library itself may have been the inspiration for the setting of her book 'The Body in the Library'.
Second World War frieze
During the Second World War, Greenway was requisitioned by the U.S. Coast Guard. One of the men stationed here, Lt Marshall Lee, left a unique memento encircling all four walls of the Library.
In January 1944, a flotilla of 24 landing craft, together with their commanders and support staff, arrived in the River Dart from the USA. Fifty-one captains and members of the planning team stayed in the house, and they remained at Greenway until just before D-Day.
Twelve painted murals
The Library was kept as their recreation and ‘mess room’, with a bar set up in the alcove. During their six-month stay, Lt Marshall Lee painted the 12 coloured murals within the frieze. They depict incidents that occurred during the 11-month journey to Greenway.
Agatha and Max were quite surprised to return to Greenway and see the painted mural. The American Officer in charge offered to paint it out, but the family decided to keep this historic memorial.
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Discover the stories behind some of the greatest artworks and artefacts looked after by the National Trust, as told in a dedicated book, 125 Treasures from the Collections of the National Trust.
Step inside the holiday home of Agatha Christie and her family. Find out more about the rooms used by the family and the treasures they collected.
Agatha Christie spent time at Greenway for holidays and for time to relax as a family. Find out how she came to purchase the property and how it became requisitioned during the Second World War.
From walled gardens to riverside woodland, the garden at Greenway is very relaxed and tranquil. Find out more about the Peach House, the Fernery, the Battery, and where to find the best river views.
Greenway is a three pawprint rated place. We love dogs and welcome you to visit with your pooch. Find out where you can walk with your four-legged friend at Greenway and what facilities are available.
The Barn Café and the Tack Room provide takeaway drinks, food and ice cream. Browse the souvenirs and gifts in the National Trust shop, or find a pre-loved read in the second-hand bookshop.