The ‘third’ James Watts (1879-1957) of Abney Hall, Cheadle, and Upper House, Hayfield, pictured here in a painting of 1928, married Agatha Christie’s sister, Madge Miller in 1902. Agatha began a lifelong friendship with Nan Watts, James’ cousin, who she met at the wedding. Agatha’s remained close with the Watts’ and her daughter, Rosalind Hicks, spent a lot of time with her aunt and uncle and cousin Jack in the North.
James’ wife, Madge Miller (1879–1950), made Abney Hall and Upper House welcoming and hospitable to friends and family, and both places were to become an integral part of her sister Agatha’s literary landscape. The numerous dedications to the Watt’s in Agatha’s novels reveal a mischievous humor that united the family.
Miss Jane Marple first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage, published in 1930. Agatha went on to write a further 11 Miss Marple books. The Last Miss Marple mystery, Sleeping Murder, was left by Agatha in a bank vault for 40 years, to be published after her death. Poirot’s Last Case was also published after her death, allowing her famous detectives to have their final say
Agatha wrote in a letter that the name Miss Marple, was inspired by the town of Marple. She visited a contents sale in the ancient manor house, Marple Hall, shortly before deciding on the name.
Harper Collins donated the images of the 12 Miss Marple novels displayed at Marple Train Station
Agatha Christies Grandson, Matthew Prichard, unveiled this plaque at Marple Station at a ceremony on 5th July 2015. He revisited Upper House during his trip to the North, after an absence of 57 years. It remains much the same today as when the family sold it in 1958.
A shooting lodge mystery formulated from Agatha’s experience of Upper House, with a grouse shoot near the thinly disguised Elmer’s Dale – based on nearby Edale, and including the mysterious protagonist Mrs Middleton – a name taken from nearby Stoney Middleton.
This Derbyshire murder solved from feedback from Captain Hastings, written for James Watts after he said she had become “too civilised”. Poirot’s hapless rival, Captain Hasting, stays at the Matlock Hotel.
The historic spa town of Matlock was made popular by the Victorians
This Watts / Christie family name appears in two stained glass windows at Upper House. It was very important to the family as James Watts great grandmother ~ Margaret Anne Buckley (1816 – 1892) of Rochdale, was considered to have an elevated position in society at the time and her marriage to the ambitious man who started the largest textile merchant company in the UK – James Watts (1803 – 1878) was a signficant step up for the Watts who came from a long line of farmers and weavers in the North West. The earliest record of this line can be found on a grave in St James’ churchyard in Didsbury, dated 1236.
Agatha uses the family name for the intrepid woman Magdala “Nick” Buckley in the novel Peril At End House, published in 1932
Agatha Christie’s first massive bestseller which catapulted her to fame, her celebrity status compounding her efforts to disappear a year later.
Agatha revealed in her autobiography of 1977 that the basic idea of the novel was first given to her by her brother-in-law James Watts. He suggested the plot because she was “getting too predictable”.
This book was dedicated to the Watts’ following James Watts death in 1957. The foreword from the author reads
“…I always spent Christmas with my brother-in-law’s family in the north of England…how deep my gratitude to the kind and hospitable hostess who must have worked so hard to make Christmas Day a wonderful memory to me still in my old age. So let me dedicate this book to the memory of Abney Hall –its kindness and hospitality.”
A delightful husband and wife detective team in an intriguing set of 5 novels, whose name Beresford has strong Derbyshire links. In an unusual literary move, the couple aged in “real time”, appearing as bright young things in their 20’s in The Secret Adversary, and in their 70’s by the time of The Postern Of Fate in 1973. This novel was the last novel ever written by Agatha Christie.