CHRISTIE, Dame Agatha (1890-1976)
Plaque erected in 2001 by English Heritage at 58 Sheffield Terrace, Holland Park, London, W8 7NA, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Detective novelist, Playwright
DAME AGATHA CHRISTIE 1890-1976 Detective novelist and playwright lived here1934-1941
Dame Agatha Christie was one of the best-selling writers of all time. Renowned for her detective novels, she wrote some of her most famous works – including Murder on the Orient Express (1934) and Death on the Nile (1937) – while living at 58 Sheffield Terrace in Holland Park, Kensington.
Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in Devon, she wrote her first work of detective fiction, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (published 1920), in 1917. From 1920 to 1965, she produced at least one book every year.
Christie’s reputation was made with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), and her most famous characters – Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple – were soon familiar to households across the world.
She caused a sensation in 1926 when she disappeared for 10 days, prompting a nationwide search and rumours of murder at the hands of her husband. Traumatised by her mother’s death and her husband’s unfaithfulness, Christie had fled from her home in Surrey to the Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate, where she was eventually identified by members of staff. In subsequent years, she maintained she had no memory of the episode.
Number 58 Sheffield Terrace was the home of Christie and her second husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan (1904–78). They lived here from 1934 until 1941, when they were driven out by bombing. Christie described it as ‘a happy house’ and remembered that:
When I saw it I wanted to live there as badly as I had ever wanted to live in any house. It was perfect, except perhaps for the fact that it had a basement. It had not many rooms, but they were all big and well-proportioned. It was just what we needed.
It was the only address at which Christie had her own workroom. She declared that the room would contain:
a grand piano; large, firm table; a comfortable sofa or divan; a hard upright chair for typing; and one armchair to recline in, and there was to be nothing else.
Here, at second-floor level, she completed some of her best-known stories, including Murder on the Orient Express (1934), The ABC Murders (1935) and Death on the Nile (1937).
Christie confessed that she had a ‘passion’ for houses. Favouring Kensington and Chelsea, she lived at numerous addresses in London; so many, in fact, that the details became blurred. In her autobiography, she claimed to have lived at 48 Sheffield Terrace, but she actually lived several houses further west. The cause of confusion may have been her previous address, nearby 47–48 Campden Street, where she lived in 1930–4.