Enjoy a literary tour of Agatha Christie’s world

Tuesday: Agatha’s England; (Channel 5, 9pm)

Monday, 5th July 2021, 5:00 pm

Through her sensational detective novels, short-story collections, plays and famous detective sleuths Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, Agatha Christie created a literary universe that captured the English spirit like no one before or since.

But the magical worlds where she set her fictional stories were in fact drawn from real places.

This heart-warming documentary takes viewers on a literary tour of the country, focusing on the most interesting locations featured in some of her best-known books in a career that spanned over half a century.

Christie was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller into a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Torquay, Devon, in 1890, and was largely home-schooled.

Because her siblings were much older than her, and there were few children in their neighbourhood, Christie spent much of her time playing alone with her pets and imaginary companions. However, she did have some adventures as a child which inspired her writing.

The first stop on this literary tour takes us to Beacon Cove near Torquay harbour, where she loved to play while growing up. This was the exact location where a young Agatha swam with her young nephew when he narrowly escaped drowning. That memory of which would be reprised in her 1939 novel And Then There Were None when young nanny Vera Claythorne lets the boy in her charge, Cyril, drown so that his relative, Hugo, would inherit his money and then be rich enough to marry her.

The next stop is Ealing, we hear how the young Agatha witnessed her step-grandmother/great-aunt Margaret Miller, affectionately known as ‘Granny’, devour local gossip and the news.

A little later, Agatha also developed a fascination with the day’s gruesome murder trials, and the fingerprints of this would be all over the fictional world of Miss Marple and the village of St Mary’s Mead in 1930 novel The Murder at the Vicarage.

During the First World War, Agatha qualified as a pharmacist, and she was introduced to poisons, which would feature in many of her murder mysteries.

Meanwhile, Belgian refugees flooded Torquay, and would go on to inspire another of Agatha’s greatest creations, Hercule Poirot.

Next, we pay a visit to 18th-century stately home Ugbrook House in Chudleigh, where she met her first husband Archibald Christie at a dance hosted by Lord and Lady Clifford in October 1912.

Abney Hall in Cheshire was where Agatha spent many of her childhood Christmases, and this property is considered by many as the inspiration for the ‘Queen of Crime’s’ inimitable country house murder template.

There’s also Brown’s Hotel, immortalised in 1965’s At Bertram’s Hotel, and Christie’s country retreat Greenway which she called ’the loveliest place in the world’ .

It played host to a scene in 1956 book Dead Man’s Folly, and the garden, Boathouse and local area are all described to a T, so much so that in 2013, ITV chose to film their adaptation here.

This was just another example of how Agatha drew on her surroundings as a magpie would, as both the people, and the places she encountered were immortalised in the quintessentially English writer’s extraordinary canon of work.

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