Mayhem on the links.

 

Agatha Christie once planned a murder in Valley End.

Sunningdale Golf Club lies to the west of the Chobham Road, on what was common land. In the 1920s the southern part of it was within Valley End parish.

Agatha knew Sunningdale and the surrounding area well. In the 1920’s she moved to the district with her husband, a retired officer named Colonel Archibald Christie.

NPG x82104; Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie (nÈe Miller) by Elliott & Fry
Agatha Christie, by Elliott & Fry, half-plate negative. National Portrait Gallery.

Agatha had wanted a country cottage, but she didn’t find her rural retreat at Sunningdale. Instead it was full of expensive houses clustered around the golf course – which delighted her husband.

He had just been elected to Sunningdale Golf Club, and had decided that Sunningdale was perfect.

Colonel Christie was thrilled with their new home. He played on the links at every opportunity, and Agatha rapidly found herself becoming a golf widow.

The years at Sunningdale ended unhappily for her. Not only did her husband abandon her for golf, but he then went on abandon her for another woman too.

In 1926 the pressure must have been unbearable. She went missing, and it was only after a well-publicised search that she was discovered in Harrogate, where she was staying under a false name. It is possible that she had suffered amnesia brought on by stress.

Finally Agatha divorced her husband in 1928.

The next year, 1929, she published a short detective story, “The Sunningdale mystery,” in “Partners in crime.”

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“There is a public footpath that crosses the links, and just as they were playing up to the sixth green, Hollaby noticed a woman coming along it.” (The Sunningdale mystery.)

The story centres on Sunningdale Golf Course. Agatha played golf herself, and she was obviously familiar with the links, and was quite happy slotting victim and suspects into the landscape.

She mentions the public footpath crossing the course, and the suspect runs desperately away from the links, tripping over the heather. A revolver is discovered in the furze bushes growing beside the green, and an unknown woman appears suddenly from the ladies course.

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“She ran for her life across the golf links, expecting every minute to be shot down by a revolver bullet. She fell twice, tripping over the heather…” (The Sunningdale mystery.)

It is also clear that she knew the surrounding area. Paths leave the golf course, to emerge on the Windlesham Road. The murderer goes back to London via Woking.

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“Just at that point there is another of those narrow slips leading to the Windlesham Road…” (The Sunningdale mystery.)

Agatha included other features too. The victim, Captain Sessle, bore a curious resemblance to Colonel Christie. He also was a retired officer, and married to a devoted wife. A devout golfer, he spent much of his time practising on the course.

This was his downfall. Early one morning “a gruesome discovery was made on the famous golf links.” Sessle was found, lying face down on the seventh tee. He had been stabbed to the heart with a woman’s hatpin.

Definitely a writer’s revenge on her errant ex-husband!

Sources.

Agatha Christie. “An autobiography.” Harper Collins. 1993.

Agatha Christie. “Partner’s in crime.” Fontana paperbacks. 1983.

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