Greenway House

Greenway House




Greenway, also known as Greenway House, is an estate on the River Dart near Galmpton in Devon, England. Once the home of the author Agatha Christie, it is now owned by the National Trust. There have been no recorded murders on the Greenway Estate. The estate is served by a steam railway service with trains from Paignton and Kingswear stopping at Greenway Halt station.

Greenway is located on the eastern bank of the tidal River Dart, facing the village of Dittisham on the opposite bank. The estate is two miles from Galmpton, the nearest village, and is in the South Hams district of the English county of Devon. Greenway is three miles north of Dartmouth. An early history book of Devon described Greenway as "very pleasantly and commodiously situated, with delightsome prospect to behold the barks and boats".

*** – History – ***

Greenway was first mentioned in 1493 as "Greynway", the crossing point of the Dart to Dittisham. In the late 16th century a Tudor mansion called Greenway Court was built by Otto and Katherine Gilbert, members of a Devon seafaring family. One of the family's ships was named The Hope of Greenway and, according to Sara Burdett's history of the estate, it is probable that they kept their ships moored in the river.

The couple had three sons, all born at Greenway. In 1583 one son, Sir Humphrey, took possession of Newfoundland for Elizabeth I, while his brother, Sir John, lived at Greenway. Humphrey and John's half-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, also lived at the house. In 1588 John was given the responsibility of 160 prisoners of war captured during the Spanish Armada; he put them to work on the estate, levelling the grounds.

Little is known about the original Tudor building although, given the status of the family, Burdett considers it was "probably designed on a grand scale". An archaeological examination of the current house's hallway shows evidence of a Tudor courtyard underneath.

In around 1700 the Gilberts made nearby Compton Castle their family seat and sold Greenway to Thomas Martyn, a resident of Totnes, also in Devon. Over the next 90 years the house passed down through the Roopes, the family of Martyn's wife, until it was bequeathed to a distant relation, Roope Harris, on the proviso that he changed his surname to Roope. Roope Harris Roope, as he became, built what is now the existing house in Georgian style. Roope sold Greenway in 1791 to one Edward Elton for over £9,000. Roope went bankrupt in 1800; Burdett opines that this could have been because of the amount of money spent on rebuilding Greenway.

The Elton family developed the garden, with some remodelling by the landscape gardener Humphry Repton. At some point in the late 18th century the Tudor house was entirely demolished. Burdett considers it was possibly Roope, while Historic England think it was more likely to have been Edward Elton.

Elton's son, James, took possession of the house upon the death of his father in 1811, and expanded the property, adding two wings to the house, for a dining room and drawing room. He also paid for a new road from Galmpton to Greenway ferry, which changed the access to the estate. When he sold the estate in 1832, it was much changed. A large kitchen garden, swimming pool, boat house and redesigned gardens.

The estate was purchased, although only briefly, by a Sir Thomas Dinsdale, but was soon sold for £18,000 to Colonel Edward Carlyon, whose family owned Tregrehan House, in Cornwall. The Carlyons did not make any significant alterations to the interior of the house; but, according to Burdett, they are likely the owners who introduced a rockery to the slope on the east of the house.

Carlyon inherited Tregrehan House in 1842, and moved there the following year. Greenway was let out to a series of tenants until it was sold twice in quick succession, the last time to Richard Harvey, a Cornish copper and tin magnate, and his wife Susannah.

The Harveys developed the estate extensively, restoring the stables and lodge house, installing two new greenhouses and redecorating the interior. They restored much of Galmpton, including building the village school and the Manor Inn; Harvey also acquired the Lordship of the manor of Galmpton. Harvey died in 1870, his wife in 1882; they had no children to pass the estate on to, and it was sold for £44,000 to Thomas Bedford Bolitho.

Bolitho, the industrialist MP for St Ives, added what Burdett describes as "a Cornish influence" on the gardens, introducing plants such as Camellias, magnolias, rhododendrons and laurels. He built a new east wing to the house in 1892, which included a billiard room, study and bedrooms; this was demolished in 1938.

Bolitho died in 1919 and the house passed to his daughter Mary, and her husband, Charles Williams, whose family owned Caerhays Castle near St Michael Caerhays, Cornwall. Between them the couple added several new varieties of plants from nurseries in Cornwall. In 1937 they returned to Cornwall and sold the estate to Alfred Goodson. He split up the estate and sold it off the following year. The house, with 36 acres (15 hectares) of land, was available for sale for £6,000.

In 1938, the writer Agatha Christie and her husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, were becoming disenchanted with their home in nearby Torquay. The town had changed in the previous years, and the once uninterrupted view of the sea they had from the house became obstructed with new buildings. Looking around south Devon, Christie saw Greenway was available. She had seen the property during her youth and thought it "the most perfect of the various properties on the Dart".

In her later autobiography she wrote:

  • One day we saw that a house was up for sale that I had known when I was young ... So we went over to Greenway, and very beautiful the house and grounds were. A white Georgian house of about 1780 or 90, with woods sweeping down to the Dart below, and a lot of fine shrubs and trees – the ideal house, a dream house.
  • The house was occupied by Christie and Mallowan until their deaths in 1976 and 1978 respectively, and featured, under various guises, in several of Christie's novels. Christie's daughter Rosalind Hicks and her husband Anthony lived in the house from 1968 until Rosalind's death in 2004.

    The Greenway Estate was acquired by the National Trust in 2000. On 3 March 2004 Greenway was made a Grade 2* listed building by English Heritage (now Historic England). The Pevsner for Devon describes it as "tall, late-Georgian, stuccoed". The gardens and parkland are Grade 2 listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The house and gardens are open to the public, as is the Barn Gallery. The large riverside gardens contain plants from the southern hemisphere, whilst the Barn Gallery shows work by contemporary local artists.

    *** – Inspiration – ***

    Agatha Christie frequently used places familiar to her as settings for her plots. Greenway Estate and its surroundings in their entirety or in parts are described in the following novels:

  • • The A.B.C. Murders (1936)
  • The character Sir Carmichael Clarke, a wealthy man from Churston, is one of three victims to have a copy of the A.B.C. Railway Guide left by his body. Churston is two miles from Greenway Estate and the station before Greenway Halt on the steam railway line. Within the plot, the 'C' of 'A.B.C.' refers to Churston as well as the character's name.
  • • Five Little Pigs (1942)
  • The main house, the footpath leading from the main house to the battery overlooking the river Dart and the battery itself (where the murder occurs) are described in detail since the movements of the novel's protagonist at these locations are integral to the plot and the denouement of the murderer.
  • • Towards Zero (1944)
  • The location of the estate opposite the village of Dittisham, divided from each other by the river Dart, plays an important part for the alibi and a nightly swim of one of the suspects.
  • • Dead Man's Folly (1956)
  • The boat house of Greenway Estate is described as the spot where the first victim is discovered, and the nearby ferry landing serves as the place where the second real murder victim is dragged into the water for death by drowning. Other places described are the greenhouse and the tennis court, where Mrs. Oliver placed real clues and red herrings for the "murder hunt". The lodge of Greenway Estate serves as the home of Amy Folliat, the former owner of Nasse House.

    *** – Visiting – ***

    The car park, garden, café, shop and toilets at Greenway are open. The National Trust have introduced advance booking to keep everyone safe and maintain social distancing. To avoid disappointment please book in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and bank holidays. However, where space is available on weekdays, pre-booking may not always be necessary.

    Please note that booking is for your arrival time for Greenway and not your entry time to the house, this is on a first come, first served basis between 1.30-4.30pm. Please come prepared for all weathers. They look forward to seeing you. Click here to book now.

    *** – Greenway House – ***

    Agatha Christie called Greenway 'the loveliest place in the world' and treasured it as a holiday home for her and her family. They filled each room with items dear to them, brought to Greenway from Ashfield, Agatha's childhood home, and their travels and extensive collections. In the house you can see all of this just as Agatha and her family left it.

    The ground floor of the house is open daily, 1.30-4.30pm. Visits are limited to ensure social distancing and entry to the house is not guaranteed on the day you visit. Whilst the NT hope to give access to everyone wanting to visit the house, entry will be on a first come, first served basis. To ensure they can adhere to social distancing guidelines, a one way system will be in operation in the house with stanchions in place in some of the rooms. In the library and dining room, you will be able to look into, but not fully enter the rooms.

    Follow in the family's footsteps. Imagine Agatha Christie and her family spending relaxed summer days or cosy Christmas holidays at Greenway. In the Drawing Room you'll see dominoes and card games laid out in front of the fire. Agatha's Steinway Piano has pride of place in this room; volunteer pianists often play - even performing music written by Christie herself.

    The hallway is home to picnic baskets and walking sticks which speak of happy afternoons spent in the gardens. Everywhere you turn in the house there is an item waiting to speak to you about its history. In the Library is Greenway’s unexpected treasure; a frieze painted during World War Two by Lt Marshall Lee, a member of the US. Coast Guard stationed at the house in the run up to the D Day landings.

    See the collections. Agatha and her family were all extensive collectors; five generations collected over 11,000 objects now in the house. Collections of all sorts from silverware to china, boxes and of course, books fill each room. In the Winter Dining Room you get a real impression of the scale of the collections as you see the cupboards piled high.

    *** – Greenway Gardens – ***

    From walled gardens to riverside woodland, the informal garden at Greenway is very relaxed and tranquil. There are hidden gems to discover, views to admire and places to relax. Find out about the different areas to explore, and what the garden is like throughout the seasons.

  • The walled gardens.
  • The walled gardens are a combination of industry and leisure; the peach house, vinery, vegetable plot and Galmpton School allotment all thrive in the shelter provided by the high walls. The South Walled Garden is also home to soft borders where hydrangeas flower in summer, and there is a large lawn to relax on.
  • Greenway's school allotment.
  • Pupils from Galmpton carry on a traditional link between Greenway and their school by tending to an allotment in the Walled Garden. Once the vegetables have been harvested, the kids come for a celebration with their parents and enjoy the fruits of their labours with a delicious dinner.
  • Clock Golf.
  • A sunny lawn tucked behind the walled gardens is named Clock Golf after the game Agatha and her family would play there. To one side of it is a grass border, to the other side of Clock Golf is the dahlia border, and just behind is a swathe of towering trees.
  • The Fernery.
  • One of the most magical areas at Greenway is the recently-restored fernery behind the walled gardens, just along from the dahlia border. Dappled light and shade fall upon the fronds and the central water fountain creates an unrivalled atmosphere of tranquillity. One of the more quirky aspects to the fernery is the dog cemetery, where Agatha's dogs are buried.
  • The Top Garden.
  • A stroll to the top garden rewards you with a gorgeous summer border. Year-round this part of the garden is the place to go to see one of the best views over the river; stand by the fence to the field at the edge of the garden to admire the River Dart down to Dartmouth.
  • The Battery and Boathouse.
  • A walk around the garden isn't complete without visiting the Battery, which was built as a Napoleonic defence in the 1790s. Just along from there is the Boathouse, which was the scene of the crime in the Poirot mystery Dead Man's Folly. The Boathouse has recently had a lot of conservation work done both inside and out, to help to care for it for ever, for everyone.

    *** – Changing seasons at Greenway – ***

  • Greenway garden in spring.
  • Spring starts early in this woodland garden. Camellias, rhododendron, spring bulbs and more bloom all over the woodland garden. Find out about the best places in the garden to see the spring colour and the spring flowers on the free daily garden walk at 2pm. Camellias flower throughout the garden from February onwards; Greenway is even home to an historical camellia garden. This secluded walled garden by the river used to house an aviary, and is a great place to see camellias in flower from late February until April. Some other places to see them blooming is along the driveway and the middle path.
  • Spring into summer.
  • Follow the path past the house and through the garden, you'll see bluebells taking over the banks and drifting down the hillside toward the River Dart. In the South Walled Garden the smell of wisteria and apple blossom fills the air, and from the Croquet Lawn the delicate scent of elderflower drifts over from the elder 'Eva.' At this time of year you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a rare cirl bunting, a small farmland bird which is endangered but thriving on the Greenway estate.
  • Summer in the garden.
  • In the summer months, Greenway's leafy garden is filled with shady spots and cool river breezes. Peaches are ripening in the Peach House, the Top Garden is a riot of colour, and the Croquet Lawn's borders are filled with flowers. The real charm of the garden though is it's relaxed nature; bring a picnic and a blanket and find a spot to unwind and enjoy the view.
  • Autumn colour.
  • Crunch through fallen leaves, spot wildlife on the River Dart, and enjoy the last blaze of colourful planting in the garden this season from black gum tree and acers along the driveway. Look out for grasses in flower between the walled gardens and Clock Golf lawn, such as Pennisetum 'Karley Rose' and ‘Fairy Tails’ in flower. Along the Middle Path highlights are Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica) and Liquidambars. Hydrangeas and cyclamen flower well into autumn.
  • Greenway garden in winter.
  • Winter is the perfect time to explore the garden; while the leaves are down from the trees the views over the river are opened up, and there are plenty of interesting plants in flower. A winter weekend walk around the garden is perfect for blowing away the cobwebs. Evergreens provide some welcome greenery and winter flowering shrubs such as Camellia sasanqua offer splash

    *** – Greenway Boathouse walk – ***

    This circular route around the garden leads you through woodland and along the riverside. For pedometer users who may be interested, this route clocks up about 1,500 steps, and will get your heart rate up on the final stretch as you walk back up from the bottom of the garden. Please be aware that the Boathouse is closed until further notice, but the Boathouse quay is open and a great place to visit for river views. Some paths may be closed on your visit: follow the diversions in place or retrace your steps. Classified as Moderate, this walk is one mile long and should take 30 minutes to complete.

    Start: Greenway visitor reception.

  • 1. From visitor reception, walk through the courtyard, past the shop and head right to take you down to the house. Follow the Middle Path past the house, heading into the woodland garden.
  • 2. Keep to the Middle Path until you come to a fork in the path which is signposted 'to the Boathouse.' Turn right here, and head downhill.
  • 3. Follow the path downhill until you reach a fork. Take the path to the left.
  • 4. This path leads you down to the edge of the garden, where it borders the River Dart. Grey herons nest in the trees here; there is the largest heronry on the River Dart at the edge of the garden.
  • Heronry. When you pass a gate into the field that borders garden, pop your head over it and look down towards the river. You may be able to see the heronry, and in the spring you can see the herons on their nests.
  • 5. The path forks to the left again, leading to a viewpoint with a handily positioned bench. Why not stop for a minute and soak up the view of the river? From here you can see down towards Kingswear. When you're ready, join the path again and follow it along the riverside until you reach the Boathouse.
  • Greenway Boathouse. This was the scene of the crime in Agatha Christie's mystery 'Dead Man's Folly.' From the Boathouse Saloon you can visit the veranda for some wildlife watching, and meet the team there who will fill you in on the Boathouse's history. If the Saloon is closed, why not visit the Boathouse Quay?
  • 6. Once you've finished exploring the Boathouse, rejoin the path and continue along it, keeping the river to your left. You'll arrive at The Battery.
  • The Battery. Agatha Christie and her family loved to watch the passing boats from The Battery. It dates from the late 18th or early 19th century, and was perhaps part of the Dart estuary defences during the Napoleonic wars.
  • 7. From the Battery, take the path at the opposite end from the way you arrived, to keep the River Dart on your left while you begin the climb back up the garden. There are some steep and rocky sections of this path, so take it steady.
  • 8. You'll come across another viewpoint with a bench where you can pause for a rest and enjoy the river view. Follow the path all the way until it emerges to the left of the house. Then turn right to go around the house and back towards the courtyard where you started.
  • End: Greenway courtyard. You made it!


    River Dart from the Battery

    River Dart from the Battery


    *** – Galmpton to Greenway walk – ***

    Wander quiet country lanes and woodland through Lower Greenway Farm to Greenway House and Gardens. This walk can be combined with the Mill Lane walk as well as the Hook Bottom walk to create various circular routes back to Galmpton. This route is a combination of bridleways and permissive bridleway which is free to be used by horse riders, cyclists and walkers as far as Greenway car park. Classified as Moderate, this walk is two and a half miles long and should take about one hour and 20 minutes to complete. It is described as dog friendly.

    Start: Manor Inn, Galmpton.

  • 1. From the Manor Inn turn right and follow Greenway road towards Greenway house and gardens. Follow the road past the village hall and school, and just as you leave Galmpton turn left onto Kennel lane.
  • 2. Cross the bridge over the railway and turn right immediately afterwards onto Coombe lane. Follow Coombe lane for 1 km (0.6 miles) until you reach at T-junction. At this point take the right turn following Greenway walk signs.
  • 3. This path takes you through Higher Greenway farm and out onto Maypool road. Turn left onto this road and continue along it past Maypool house and out onto open farm fields overlooking the River Dart. (The road becomes a track at the entrance to Maypool house).
  • 4. Continue along grassy track at top of field until you reach a bench and interpretation board. At this point you will turn right following Greenway walk and Greenway signs. Keep the woodland on your right and follow the path through the field. The route then drops down a steep slope to the car park at Greenway. Follow the path to the driveway, and then take the driveway to Greenway Visitor Reception.
  • End: Greenway courtyard. You made it!

    *** – Facilities – ***


  • • In line with government guidelines you'll be required to wear a face covering in the NT shops, houses, cafés and food outlets in England from 24 July. Please bring one with you.
  • • The ground floor of the house is open daily from 1.30-4.30pm. Whilst they hope to give everyone with a pre-booked ticket to Greenway access, entrance into the house will be on a first come, first served basis.
  • • The garden, shop, café and toilets are open.
  • • The café has reopened and will initially be serving a limited range of takeaway hot and cold drinks and some light snacks.
  • • They are sorry but the Boathouse is closed until further notice.
  • • Parking charges for non-National Trust members: £3 per session, free for members (please show membership card upon arrival and display car sticker).
  • • You can pay for your pre-booked parking by mobile. Visit
  • • Dogs are welcome in the garden at Greenway, please keep them on short leads in the garden and grounds. Assistance dogs welcome in the house.
  • • If you wish to visit by motorhome, please contact them before your arrival. They have limited spaces for midibuses and motorhomes, and need to be booked in advance.
  • Family:-

  • • Baby-changing facilities are in the main courtyard next to Visitor Reception.
  • • Children must be supervised at all times.
  • Access:-

  • • Designated accessible parking available.
  • • Drop-off available at Reception, if required. Induction loop.
  • • Adapted toilets next to visitor reception and next to the shop.
  • • Grounds are partly accessible, steep slopes, narrow paths. Map of accessible route available.
  • • The ground floor of the house will open on 5 September. The route will be accessible and a manual wheelchair will be available in the house on request.
  • • Please click here for the full access statement.

    Location : Greenway, Greenway Road, Galmpton, near Brixham, Devon, TQ5 0ES

    Transport: Paignton 4 ½ miles, Churston 2 miles. Please be aware that there are no steam train services in operation for the rest of 2020. Bus Routes : Please be aware that there are no bus services in operation to Greenway for the rest of 2020. Ferry : From Dartmouth (park at Darmouth park and ride, six hours minimum parking required) call Greenway Ferry Service: 01803 882811.

    Opening Times House (Ground Floor): 13:30 to 16:30.

    Opening Times Garden: 10:30 to 17:00.

    Tickets Gardens: Adults £8.00;  Child £4.00;   Free for NT Members.

    Tel: 01803 842382