By Judy Dewey, curator of Wallingford Museum.

AS SEPTEMBER approaches, our thoughts in Wallingford and Cholsey turn again to one of our most famous residents of the past – The Queen of Crime – Agatha Christie.

In 1932, a few years after her divorce from Archibald Christie, she married Max Mallowan, an archaeologist she had met on a visit to excavations in the Middle East. They bought Winterbrook House, Cholsey, in 1934, a Georgian house situated just on the outskirts of Wallingford. This became their home together until her death in 1976. She was a very private person, shy of media pressure and determined to remain out of the public eye. She described her occupation as ‘Housewife’ and to local people she was always ‘Mrs Mallowan’. Here she found the peace she needed to write her books.

In 1970, a young schoolboy from Wallingford took the courage to knock on the great lady’s door and ask if he could have an interview for his school magazine. Amazingly, Mrs Mallowan kindly agreed and the result was a rare personal article. These are just three snippets:

‘Who do you think had the most influence on your early detective novels?’

‘Without a doubt, Conan Doyle…. I think Sherlock Holmes is a good example of a detective at that time, and Watson that of an idiotic stooge. Due to this I modelled Hercule Poirot on Holmes and Hastings on Watson, but I’m afraid I got rather tired of Hastings and sent him to the Argentine.’

‘Is Miss Marple an older version of Hercule Poirot?’

‘Definitely not. Miss Marple is an elderly person who has met a lot of people during her life and is a keen believer in common-sense… she always likens the suspects to people she has met during her own experience. Hercule Poirot has been trained in a police-force and so knows where to look, and for what things.’

‘Do you work at any set time during the day?’

‘Well, at any time apart from afternoons. I prefer writing during the morning as early as I can, or at night, when I find that I can think clearer than during the afternoon when my mind is far too slack for writing.’

The article was a great success and can be read in full in the Agatha Christie display at Wallingford Museum where there’s lots more to learn about this fascinating crime writer!

This year’s special Agatha Christie Weekend runs from September 6th to 8th and includes a Science Oxford Forensic Challenge for adults on the Friday evening in Wallingford Museum where you can examine a crime scene, gather forensic evidence and test it in a laboratory to help you solve the crime! There’s also a special talk in Cholsey Church on Saturday 7th: Murder Most Flowery, by Dr Ruth Brompton-Charlesworth, an expert on Agatha Christie’s use of plants in her crimes and solutions. ‘A is for Agatha’ is an unusual art exhibition at Cholsey Old School featuring printmaking inspired by Christie’s books. And there’s lots more….

Find details of booking and all events at