Ashfield (birthplace of Agatha Christie)


The novelist Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Book sales are estimated to be over two billion with only the works of William Shakespeare and the Bible surpassing her.


Her novel And Then There Were None has sold 100 million sales and her stage play The Mousetrap holds the world record for longest initial run (it was first performed in November 1952 and is still going now after 25,000+ performances.)


While on holiday in Torquay I thought I’d look for the blue plaque marking the site where she was born. I’d done the thirty minute stroll from the marina up to the main crematorium to see where Ruby Murray had been cremated. As I wandered backed down I looked at a map and ensured I went down Barton Road. If the road hadn’t been so quiet I could have easily passed the tired-looking blue plaque secured to a stone on the ground.


Sadly there’s not much to see now - only the plot of land where “Ashfield” the large Victorian mansion once stood. It’s pretty much a patch of grass looked on by a rather bland-looking block of flats.


Agatha spent a happy childhood with her parents and two older sisters in the huge house. The money came from Agatha’s mother who had married an upper class American stockbroker. With an inheritance she bought "Ashfield" to raise the three girls. In her autobiography Agatha recalls happy halcyon days spent at Ashfield with her sisters. As the family were quite wealthy they often spent winters in parts of Southern Europe. Though Agatha's sister Margaret was sent away to boarding school Agatha was educated at Ashfield. She was a voracious reader from an early age, claiming she taught herself to read. In this house she learnt to play the piano and mandolin and looked after her adored pets.


The idyllic childhood was splintered when she was eleven years old and her dad died of a heart attack aged 55. She was sent to school at Miss Guyer's Girls School nearby. Unused to discipline the 15-year-old was sent to Paris where she was educated in three  finishing schools. She returned aged 20 to find her mum was ill and they went to the warmer climate of Cairo for three months.


At Ashfield Agatha wrote her first 6000-word short story and paranormal stories that were initially rejected. She lived in the mansion until she married a few years later, returning for the birth of her daughter Rosalind. She would sell it aged 48 and it was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a drab apartment block - how sad. The huge home always stuck in Agatha’s mind though and in her novel Postern of Fate a mansion called The Laurels was based on Ashfield.


I looked at the quiet road and wondered what it was like in about 1895 when Agatha lived here. Only one car passed by. At least the grass offers some relief to its neighbours and isn’t a Top-Tastic tanning salon or a He-To-She Transgender clinic.






Ashfield once stood here…




Looking up Barton Road…


…and down…


Agatha at Ashfield