700 Items From Agatha Christie's Devon House Up For Auction

By Graham Spicer | 05 September 2006
photo of a shelf full of old agatha christie hardback books

The auction contains some 700 items from Christie's home in Devon. Photo Kevin Clifford

Fans of Agatha Christie, the ‘Queen of Crime’, are being given a unique opportunity to own family items from her former Devon home at a bumper auction in Exeter.

More than 700 lots are up for grabs at this sale of books, ceramics, pictures, prints, collectables, furniture, silver and jewellery from Greenway House in Churston Ferrers, South Devon. The auction is expected to attract worldwide attention.

Christie’s daughter, son-in-law and grandson gifted the Greenway and its gardens to the National Trust in 2000, although this did not include the house’s contents. Her family has now decided to sell some of its vast collection of objects and are splitting the proceeds with the Trust to help fund restoration work and collection conservation.

The auction is being described as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to own a piece of Christie memorabilia and coincides with Christie Week, a national celebration marking the author’s birthday and legacy.

photo of an old green hardback edition of murder is easy by agatha christie

This Christie-inscribed first edition from 1939 is expected to sell for £1,000-£2,000. Photo Kevin Clifford

The sale takes place on Tuesday September 12 2006 at Bearne’s of Exeter and lots can be viewed there beforehand from September 9-11. An illustrated catalogue is also available online through the Bearne’s website.

Crime writer Christie (1890-1976) is the best selling fiction author of all time, with some two billion books sold in 45 languages. It is said that she is outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Born in nearby Torquay, she bought Greenway House in 1938 and it was a popular holiday home for her until her death.

Her daughter Rosalind and her husband Anthony Hicks lived there until their deaths in 2004 and 2005 and Christie’s grandson Mathew Pritchard then decided to arrange the sale.

Writing in the auction’s catalogue, he explained: “My grandmother, Agatha Christie, was a great collector, as were my parents, and so am I.”

photo of a number of silver jugs bowls and plates on a table in a room

Around 150 pieces of Christie's silverware will also be auctioned. Photo Kevin Clifford

“What is offered for sale on September 12 is either what there is not room for at Greenway – like most collectors, my family collected far too much and were reluctant to sell anything – or what did not really belong there.”

All items in the sale were first agreed with the Trust and none are central to the collections that are planned to be preserved and shown at Greenway. Highlights include several books signed or annotated by the doyenne of crime fiction herself.

Andrew Thomas, a partner with Bearne’s of Exeter said: “With just over 700 lots on offer, including many items or groups of items estimated at under £100, there really will be something for everyone and an opportunity for Agatha Christie collectors and enthusiasts everywhere to make an inexpensive purchase at the auction.”

“The books should prove to be of special interest as a small but fascinating group of 30 Agatha Christie early or first editions are included, 28 of which bear personal inscriptions from the writer.”

Shows a photo of a three storey white house with a classical facade and ivy growing up it

Greenway House was bought by Christie in 1938 and was a popular holiday home of hers. © National Trust

A 1939 first edition of Murder Is Easy and inscribed ‘from Agatha Christie’ is expected to fetch £1,000-£2,000 and a 1946 first edition of The Hollow, inscribed ‘Rosalind from Agatha Christie’ is estimated at £500-£700.

Some 150 pieces of silver and silver plate are also in the sale, including a ‘William and Mary’-style basting spoon and bowl from 1700 and a rare piece of Monteith Irish silver dating from about the same time. A number of the silver lots are recorded in Christie’s own hand-written inventory.

Greenway, set on the banks of the River Dart, was built in 1791 and features a 30-acre garden and 278-acre estate. Its gardens were restored and opened to the public in 2002 and the National Trust is now planning to open part of the ground floor of the Grade II listed building to visitors and utilise the top two floors as holiday accommodation, staff areas and storage.

Shows a photo of the living room of an old fashioned 1930s or 40s style house with a large bookcase lining one wall and many pieces of period furniture and ornaments

The house is owned by the National Trust and proceeds from the auction will help to restore it. © National Trust

Mathew Pritchard has also been working with the Trust to further develop Greenway for visitors by opening the house to the public and also allowing the display of many Christie family items and artefacts there.

“The National Trust has owned Greenway since 2000 and I am indebted to them for taking great care of the estate and opening it up for all to enjoy,” he said. “I am delighted that they plan to open up the house to the public as well, ensuring the care of the property for future generations to enjoy.”

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