Harrogate – Agatha Christie

FINALLY managed to visit The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate a few weekends back.

For Agatha Christie fans – this is the location of her mysterious ‘disappearance’ back in 1926 for 11 days.

For a fuller version of the story, click HERE

The story goes that in late 1926, Agatha’s husband Archie revealed that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. On 3rd December 1926, the couple quarrelled, and Archie Christie left their house, Styles, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening, Agatha disappeared. Around 9.45pm, without warning, she drove away from the house, having first gone upstairs to kiss her sleeping daughter, Rosalind. Her abandoned Morris Cowley was later found down a slope at Newlands Corner near Guildford. There was no sign of her, and the only clue was a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public, many of whom were admirers of Agatha Christie’s novels. Despite a massive manhunt, there were no results at all!

Eleven days after her disappearance, Christie was identified as a guest at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel (as the Old Swan was then called) in Harrogate, where she was registered (strangely!) as ‘Mrs Teresa Neele’ from Cape Town.

Christie gave no explanation for her disappearance. Although two doctors had diagnosed her as suffering from amnesia, opinion remains divided as to the reasons for her disappearance. One suggestion is that she had suffered a nervous breakdown brought about by a natural propensity for depression, exacerbated by her mother’s death earlier that year, and the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. Public reaction at the time was largely negative with many believing it was all just a publicity stunt, whilst others speculated she was trying to make the police think her husband killed her as revenge for his affair.

I had a proper little geek out when I saw the plaque and we stopped and had an excellent hot chocolate.

I’ve personally always leaned towards the idea that she had a break down upon the end of her marriage. She always maintained that she’d no memory of going missing (I must have a reread of one of her biography’s to make sure that’s true!). It’s certainly strange, particularly using the name of her husbands mistress!

It certainly didn’t affect her writing in a negative way – some of her (IMHO) best works followed on from this year – including Murder on the Orient Express and The Pale Horse (currently on in serial form)

This is also a book club relevant trip for me as we’ve an Agatha Christie coming up for LBC3READS

  • 18th April – The Wheel Spins – Ethel Lina White
  • 18th July – And there were none – Agatha Christie
  • 17th October – Strong Poison – Dorothy L Sayers

It’s taken 19 years, but I finally got to share a space with one of my all time favourite authors.