at the South Devon family home of crime writer Agatha Christie are
at the centre of a mystery whodunnit.
The mystery is: Who designed the wonderful gardens at Greenway, which
overlooks the River Dart near Galmpton.
And, after some detective work which Hercule Poirot would be proud
of, the National Trust believes it has unearthed evidence pointing
to eminent landscape designer Humphry Repton.
In fact, the discovery was initially down to a piece of good luck.
The trust, which manages the gardens after Agatha Christie's family
gave them as a gift, found a sketch at the site.
historian Katie Fretwell is investigating the find, and early indications
are that the sketch is by Repton.
Agatha Christie was born in Torquay
At the same time trust staff working on restoring the gardens, recognised
the tell-tale signs of Repton's handiwork.
The landscape designer worked in the late 18th and early 19th centuries
- which ties in with the time that the current Greenway gardens were
Repton is best known for his work at Woburn Abbey, Bloomsbury Square,
Tatton Park, Longleat, Harewood House, and Bayham Abbey.
But he worked on literally scores of commissions at major buildings
and sites across England and Wales.
This is the first time, however, that he has been linked with Greenway.
The trust's property manager at Greenway, Robyn Brown, said: "We
know that the first gardens here were laid out by the Gilberts, possibly
using prisoners from the Spanish Armada.
"That was when it was a court. But the gardens here now orignated
when the court became Greenway in the 1790s.
the gardens have this very Reptonian feeling, and our historian, Katie
Fretwell, is now investigating it."
serpentine lane with a distant view at Greenway is very Reptonian
believed in making a transition from a terrace near the house, through
a serpentine park, to a distant view - very much like Greenway.
Robyn added: "Katie has worked at Greenway from day one, and
has researched Greenway for three years, and she has found this link
to Repton. So it's a possibility he designed the garden."
Katie said: "I think Repton was there. The sketch is a map with
a drawing on it. It's a plan which is very much like Repton. I've
sent the map to experts and they say it looks like Repton too."
The gardens were opened to the public in 2002. The trust was given
300 acres of gardens and farmland on the estate, and some 30 acres
are open to the public.
The land was handed to the trust by Dame Agatha Christies' daughter
Rosalind Hicks and her husband Anthony in 1999.
The trust won an environmental award for sustainable tourism, as 58%
of the 20,700 visitors to Greenway in the summer of 2002 travelled
there using bus, train, or ferry.
The charity's gardeners,, historians and archaeologists are working
on a 10-year programme and have put together a conservation plan at
Christie photo trail: Devon connections
* Visitors to Greenway arriving by car must book in advance by
telephoning 01803 842382. You can book on the day. Those who fail
to book will not be admitted.