Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Abney and Agatha

When visiting Kate Ellis at the Bank Holiday, she took us on a walk to Abney Hall. Now Abney Hall, as many of you will know, is a place that featured importantly in both the life and writing of Agatha Christie. It’s situated a short distance away from Kate’s home in Cheadle Hulme, in Abney Park, which is owned by Stockport Council.

Christie’s connection with Cheshire was strong. Her sister married into the wealthy family that owned Abney and Agatha spent time there both during her childhood and when she was recuperating after her ‘eleven missing days’ in 1926, and her marriage to Archie Christie had broken down. Not far from Abney is Marple, which sourced the name of her second great detective.

No family lives at Abney Hall now. It’s occupied by a company, and Abney Park is run by the local authority. The grounds are not exactly immaculate, but they are appealing nonetheless, with lakes and a dog cemetery.

Abney provided the model for Enderby Hall in After the Funeral; Christie describes it, with characteristic economy, as ‘a vast Victorian house built in the Gothic style.’ The old retainer Lanscombe frets, in conversation with Hercule Poirot, that the house will soon no longer be a family home – it’s too expensive to run in the post-war era: ‘these fine mansions have served their turn.’ The novel is dedicated to Christie’s brother-in-law James Watt ‘in memory of happy days at Abney.’

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