Wednesday, May 29, 2024

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie’s Bolthole Burgh Island For Sale

Burgh Island in South Devon, where Agatha Christie wrote several novels and The Beatles stayed also, goes on sale for the staggering sum of £15 million

Described as “the best hotel west of The Ritz” by its current owner Giles Fuchs, a favourite South Devon bolthole of Agatha Christie has just come up for sale for £15 million. It was here that the ‘Queen of Crime’ had her own writer’s retreat and where also that she was inspired to pen both And Then There Were None and Evil Under The Sun.

 

Burgh Island is situated just 820-feet from the mainland and is approachable by foot at low tide and accessible by a sea tractor at high tide; it also has a helipad for those wishing to make a grand entrance. Though 3 hours from London Paddington by train, those that have visited in the past – amongst them the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Sir Winston Churchill and J. M. W. Turner even – supposedly returned again and again captivated, like Christie, by its seclusion and beauty.

 

The 21-acre island – which has gone through several name changes itself and was once known as St Michael’s Island – was the inspiration for Christie’s fictional ‘Soldier Island’ in a novel titled Ten Little Niggers when it was first published in 1939. The 272-page book was subsequently retitled Ten Little Indians and then And Then There Were None because of concerns about offending – even prior to the arrival of ‘wokery’ and ‘cancel culture’ – the American market.

 

The strategy worked as to this day, the novel became both the best-selling crime and the best-selling mystery novel of all-time. Critics enthuse of what is a brilliantly warped yet rationally believable psychological thriller that follows the story of eight people invited to an isolated private island to meet their ultimate demise alongside their two caretaker hosts at a house party from hell. Unsurprisingly, since Christie produced a version for the stage in 1943, there have been more adaptations for that medium as well as for film, radio and television adaptations than of any of her other works.

 

A clear work of genius in both plot and the financial returns it generated for its author, And Then There Were None was actually structured around an 1869 minstrel song titled Ten Little Niggers by the British songwriter Frank Green. The rhyme – as published for these politically correct times where even future editions of Roald Dahl’s book will no longer feature the adjective ‘fat’ – reads:

 

Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little Soldier Boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five little Soldier Boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little Soldier Boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one.

One little Soldier Boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

 

Whilst today’s visitors to the “comprehensively refurbished,” Grade II listed, 25-bedroom Burgh Island Hotel certainly are unlikely to face the unhappy endings of Christie’s ten unfortunates, they are able to enjoy “fine dining” at its two restaurants, and cocktails in its Palm Court bar. One can quite easily imagine Hercule Poirot sleuthing in or at the island’s 14th century pub, The Pilchard Inn. In addition, there is what is called the ‘Mermaid Pool’ – a naturally enclosed body of seawater where guests can swim or if, in the unlikely event they’d take a break from Dubai, perhaps ‘Wagatha Christie’ Coleen Rooney could witness Rebekah Vardy ‘Davy Jones-ing’ her mobile telephone for a second time even.

 

Of this “iconic landmark” – which a company ultimately controlled by Mr Fuchs paid around £5 million for in 2018 – selling agents Knight Frank enthused in their marketing material:

 

“The private island setting is virtually unique in the UK and the hotel, which has been fully restored, is one of the finest examples of working Art Deco architecture in Europe.”

 

“Burgh Island is a natural micro-environment, with wildlife to observe and cliff walks around the circumference. The sandy tidal beach on the eastern (mainland-facing) side is washed by the tide twice daily and so is always clean.”

 

Whilst the realty firm lauds total sales of in excess of £6 million for the year ending 2022, Agatha Christie actually best surmises why Mr Fuchs is seek to sell: “The best of an island is once you get there – you can’t go any farther… You’ve come to the end of things.” This week PlymouthLive revealed his company, Office Space in Town Limited (OSiT), “has debts of £130 million and is paying nearly £7 million in interests on its loans each year… [It] has borrowed huge sums and is relying on London property prices to remain stable in order to avoid breaching covenant terms which would mean loans having to be immediately repaid and potentially leading to the business going bust.”

 

Editor’s Note – Unlike as is the case in many publications, this article was NOT sponsored or supported by a third-party. Follow Matthew Steeples on Twitter at @M_Steeples.

 

Pictured Top – The island, hotel and The Pilchard Inn (top left); David Suchet as Poirot filmed ‘Evil Under The Sun’ there in 2001 (bottom left) and the island’s most famous visitor, Dame Agatha Christie DBE (right).

 

Burgh Island Hotel 1
The island is being marketed by Knight Frank at a staggering price of £15 million after being sold last in 2018 for £5 million and prior for £2 million in 2001. The hotel includes 25 en-suite guest bedrooms and suites as well as the Ballroom Restaurant (64 covers), the Nettlefold Restaurant (72 covers), the Palm Court bar and lounge (42 covers) and The Pilchard Inn (35 internal and 114 external covers). There is also a billiards room, sauna and treatment room, a staff house with 9 bedrooms, a car park on the mainland with 18 spaces and a helipad. The property is offered on a freehold basis.
Agatha Christie
Dame Agatha Christie DBE (1890 – 1976) remains to this day the world’s best-selling crime author. She penned 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections, as well as the world’s longest-running play, ‘The Mousetrap.’ Over a billion copies of her works in the English language and a billion in translation have been sold; most notable are ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ ‘Death on the Nile,’ ‘The Murder at the Vicarage’ and ‘The A. B. C. Murders.’
And Then There Were None Ten Little Niggers Ten Little Indians book covers
‘And Then There Were None’ began life as ‘Ten Little Niggers’ and via being ‘Ten Little Indians’ gained its present title to suit the American market. Christie claimed it was the most difficult of her books to write, but it is also one of her most popular – over 100 million copies have been sold and the work stands as the sixth best-selling title (any language, including reference works) of all-time.
Evil Under The Sun Poirot sea tractor
‘Evil Under The Sun’ (1931) – which features an investigation into the murder of a flirtatious but not liked woman who is murdered whilst on holiday in Devon –remains one of Christie’s most popular works. It has been adapted multiple times and became a feature film in 1982 with Peter Ustinov as Poirot. In 2001, David Suchet played the detective in a version with alterations including the addition of the characters of Hastings, Japp and Miss Lemon – none of whom appear in the original novel. A PC game version of the story has even been made and in 1999, John Moffat played Poirot for a BBC Radio 4 adaptation. Here, the cast are seen getting into Burgh Island’s famous sea-tractor during filming.
Lovejoy Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Roguish antiques dealer Lovejoy (Ian McShane) and his eccentric sidekick Tinker (Dudley Sutton) brought a new era of drama to Burgh Island when they filmed an episode there titled ‘Somewhere – Over the Rainbow?’ It was first shown in October 1994 and featured them going there to save Tinker’s financially strapped sister and her wheelchair-bound husband (presented as owners of the hotel) from losing it to a greedy property developer. The key to the story is finding a treasure trove hidden there by a notorious smuggler centuries earlier.
Giles Fuchs
Self-made multi-millionaire Giles Fuchs is the current owner of Burgh Island. He began his career as an estate agent, claims to have invested more than £1 million renovating the hotel to turn into something that looks “pretty spectacular.” He doubled the number of staff on site, brought in Mark Mosimann, son of King Charles III’s favourite chef, Anton Mosimann, and also bought accommodation on the mainland for some of the hotel’s workers to live in. In July 2020, he described the hotel as “like a house party” and the island as “beautiful” in comments to ‘Great British Life’ magazine.

The ‘Famous Face’ Guest List – Burgh Island, Bigbury-on-Sea, South Devon, TQ7 4BG, United Kingdom (Formerly Known As St Michael’s Island, Borough Island And Bur Island)

Dancer and singer Josephine Baker.

 

Musicians The Beatles – The band stayed there before playing a concert in nearby Plymouth.

 

World speed record holder Malcolm Campbell.

 

Agatha Christie – The prolific author is described as having made the island “her second home” and wrote And Then There Were None (1939) and Evil Under The Sun (1941) there. A beach hut was built for her to use as a “writer’s retreat.”

 

Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill – The politician supposedly met with President Dwight Eisenhower there prior to D-Day.

 

Flamboyant actor, playwright and singer Noël Coward – He supposedly booked in for three days, but stayed for three weeks and clearly very much enjoyed A Room With A View.

 

Shipping heiress, socialite and muse Nancy Cunard.

 

Odeon cinema chain founder Oscar Deutsche – The businessman travelled to the island with his wife and companion, World War One fighter ace Sol Joseph, in the latter’s Ford V8 Pilot just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

 

Actor and singer-songwriter George Formby – He is said to have been viewed as “the cheeky northern chappie who proudly picknicked on Bigbury Beach” during his visit who “guests didn’t know what to make of.”

 

Aviator Amy Johnson.

 

Actress Gertrude Lawrence.

 

Designer of the Spitfire R. J. Mitchell.

 

Last Viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten of Burma.

 

Artist J. M. W. Turner – The painter was “cast ashore during rough weather and ‘with a pencil, clambered nearly to the summit of the island’ to sketch its wilderness.”

 

Renegade royals The Duke and Duchess of Windsor – Said to have travelled to the islands on “frequent occasions” with their aide-de-camp Major Edward ‘Fruity’ Metcalfe.

 

In 1926, Christie disappeared from her home in Berkshire for 11 days. Mayhem and a manhunt worthy of her murder mystery books followed. Surprisingly, she didn’t choose to head to Burgh Island, but maybe that would have made her too easy to find given her love of the place. The reason for her decision to ‘vanish’ remains hotly contested today and this indeed will likely forever remain in the realms of the debate over who Jack the Ripper was – a case forever unsolved.

The Dates, Developments & Numbers – Burgh Island’s History

May 2023 – Placed for sale for £15 million ($18.8 million, €17.2 million or درهم69 million) through agents Matthew Smith and Henry Jackson of Knight Frank.

 

Commenting of the sale, Giles Fuchs told Plymouth Live: “Ownership of the Burgh Island Hotel has provided me with a wonderful journey and given me the true privilege of restoring and enhancing one of the most treasured tourist assets in the UK over the past few years. What we have achieved is an immense source of pride for all of us who have been involved and, in our work, we have always tried to ensure that the hotel’s 1920s spirit remains just as vibrant in the 2020s.”

 

Speaking to The Caterer, Matthew Smith of Knight Frank added: “It is rare for a hotel of such character and heritage to come to the open market.

 

“In recent years the buildings have received considerable investment and operates as a thriving business which generated in excess of £6 million ($7.5 million, €6.9 million or درهم27.6 million) turnover in its most recent financial year.”

 

“This is a unique opportunity to acquire a truly iconic hotel that benefits from a number of value-add opportunities to further develop the trading performance, and will no doubt appeal to a global investor audience.”

 

February 2023 – Plymouth Live reported on rumours about the hotel being for sale for £9 million ($11.3 million, €10.3 million or درهم41.4 million) after an advertisement appeared on Knight Frank’s website for a “mystery property” matching the description of it. Responding at the time, Henry Jackson of Knight Frank stated: “Burgh Island is not on the market. I don’t know where these rumours come from. At the time, the PR firm representing the hotel, Sapience Communications, added: “We have nothing additional to add.”

 

December 2022 – Planning permission granted for 12 additional guest bedrooms and suites and 13 staff bedrooms by South Hams District Council. Approval was also granted for extension of two of the restaurants and a spa facility.

 

This redevelopment, BBC News recently reported, will cost £7 million to £10 million ($8.8 million to $12.5 million, €8 million to €11.5 million or درهم32.2 million to درهم45.9 million) and of it, Mr Fuchs observed:

 

“I’m not the man for that job because once you start that, you need to do the whole thing. It’s also a substantial amount of cash and I don’t want to find [it], thanks very much.”

 

“We’ve got a big business in London and I could divert funds but the hotel was always about a love story; it was saving something that had been around for years that our family fell in love with.

 

“To divert more funds doesn’t make any sense to us. We want to buy more buildings in London.”

 

“She’s a demanding mistress and I ended up getting more and more involved at the expense of my life and other businesses, [but] I’m really pleased we’ve turned it around.”

 

Autumn 2021 – Burgh Island Limited accounts valued the business at £9.5 million ($11.9 million, €10.9 million or درهم43.7 million). At the time, profits of £296,000 ($370,000, €339,000 or درهم1.4 million) were listed down from £336,000 ($420,000, €385,000 or درهم1.5 million) in 2020.

 

The company was reported as employing 63 people with a wage bill of £1.6 million ($2 million, €1.8 million or درهم7.4 million). It paid dividends of £2 million ($2.5 million, €2.3 million or درهم9.2 million).

 

Mid 2018 – Sold by then owners Deborah Clark and Tony Orchard to Office Space in Town Ltd (OSiT), a company ultimately controlled by a London based businessman named Giles Fuchs and his sister Nichola, for a sum of £5 million ($6.3 million, €X million or درهم23 million).

 

January 2018 – Valued by estate agents Savills at £8.64 million ($10.81 million, €9.90 million or درهم39.69 million).

 

2012 – Singer-songwriter Ben Howard named his EP after the island.

 

2003 – The then owners closed the public footpaths on the island; this move was reversed in 2006 other than the routes closest to the hotel.

 

2002 – Used as a location for the television adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under The Sun.

 

2001 – Sold for £2 million ($2.5 million, €2.3 million or درهم9.2 million).

 

2001 – Used as the location of a television adaptation of Evil Under The Sun starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot.

 

2001 and 2008 – Used as the location for ITV’s GMTV show Inch-loss Island.

 

1994 – Used as the location for an episode of the BBC series Lovejoy titled ‘Somewhere – Over the Rainbow?’

 

1987 – Used as a location in the BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple: Nemesis.

 

1986 – Sold to a couple named Tony and Beatrice Porter, who “faithfully restored it to its former Art Deco glory.”

 

1965 – Used as a location for the film Catch Me If You Can.

 

1950s – Renovated, but instead of being used as a hotel became self-catering accommodation.

 

1939 – 1945 – Used by the RAF as a recovery centre for wounded RAF personnel. During this period, the top two floors of the main building suffered damaged after a direct hit by a bomb.

 

1927 – Sold to the filmmaker Archibald Nettlefold. He constructed a more substantial 25-room hotel in the Art Deco style in 1929 and after it became popular in the 1930s, added improvements and extensions in 1932 including ‘The Captain’s Cabin’ – it had been taken from HMS Ganges, a warship built in 1821.

 

1890s – Purchased by the music hall star George H. Chirgwin. He built a prefabricated wooden house to use for weekend parties.

 

14th century – The Pilchard Inn, the ‘local’ hostelry, is constructed circa 1336. It is believed to have begun life as guest lodgings for a monastery that possibly stood on the site of the current hotel.

 

Iron Age to Sub-Roman period – First settlers, tin traders, believed to have arrived.

 

More Images Of Burgh Island…

Approach.jpg
The approach to Burgh Island at low tide.
From mainland
Many people approach on foot; there are also a number of footpaths for visitors to enjoy once they get to the island.
Sea tractor
For guests of the hotel, there is a sea tractor they can travel on. Those that have experienced this wonderful contraption have commented on how much they have enjoyed the journey back and forth to and from the mainland.
Gates
The gates to the hotel are suitably reflective of the Art Deco style of the property.
Setting
The building is striking and one can certainly see what attracted the likes of Agatha Christie to it and the island.
Palm Court bar
The Palm Court features a restored circular skylight. It is stunning and this is certainly a place where one can imagine such people as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Nancy Cunard sipping martinis there of an evening whilst looking out to sea.
Dining room 2
One of two restaurants in the main hotel. The Nettlefold offers menus that are said to reflect the “uniquely wild island location.”
Dining room 1
The second, The Grand Ballroom, is a fine dining restaurant that is lauded as serving “award-winning food” in a setting that is styled around the “grandeur of a bygone era.”
Christine suite.jpg
The guest rooms, such as ‘The Christie Room,’ have primarily been named after the famous faces who’ve stayed at the hotel in times past.
Art Deco furniture
The current owner has fully refurbished the property and furnished it with in-fitting Art Deco items.
Bedroom
One of 25 bedrooms and suites at The Burgh Island Hotel; the majority enjoy superb views out to sea and to the South Devon countryside also.
Bedoom with balcony
Another bedroom, this one with a private balcony.
Loft bedroom
The Artist’s Studio is situated above The Pilchard Inn. It is a dog friendly room and just a few yards walk from the main Burgh Island Hotel building.
Agatha's Beach House
Agatha’s Beach House has been described as “one of the sexiest hotel rooms in the UK” and is undoubtedly the ultimate place to stay on Burgh Island. It was built specifically for Agatha Christie in the 1930s and was where she penned both of her Burgh Island novels. It has a sitting room, outdoor hot tub, sun decks right onto the sea and includes a king sized bed, a double sofa bed and two single beds.
Beach accommodation
The building from another angle.
Beach House view
The sitting room of Agatha’s Beach House has the benefit of the most wonderful of aspects.
Beach House interior 1
It also has a woodburning stove.
The Pilchard Inn
The Pilchard Inn was supposedly built in the 14th century as a lodging house for visitors to the monastery that is believed to have been on the island at that time. It is one of the oldest pubs in Devon.
The Pilchard Inn interior 1
The bar.
The Pilchard Inn interior 2
A traditional space perfect for drinks by the fire.
Noel Coward Suite view
Many of the rooms and suites at the Burgh Island Hotel, such as the Noël Coward suite, allow guests to experience the drama of the sea beyond.
Mermaid Pool 1
The ‘Mermaid Pool’ is a natural seawater pool in a “rugged” setting.
Mermaid Pool 2
Another view of this extremely unusual place to swim.
Solar panels
Burgh Island is partly powered by solar panels.
Plans.png
South Hams Council approved plans for additional rooms and additional staff accommodation at the Burgh Island Hotel in December 2022.
Location
The 21-acre island is just across the water from Bigbury-on-Sea.
Setting from hill
From a distance, one can genuinely see what attracted the great and the good to Burgh Island.
Matthew Steeples
Matthew Steeples
A graduate of the London School of Economics, Matthew Steeples is a writer and marketing consultant. He conceived The Steeple Times as a media arena to fill the void between the Mail Online, The Huffington Post and such organs as the New York Social Diary in 2012.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for finding. Very interesting. Looks a nice tourist trap with the different types of restaurants if you want to do something different. Who knows what a palaver it is getting there and back when the tides are in.

    • The sea tractor works well. Friends who have been there say the water doesn’t prevent too much in the way of access as the island is quite close to the mainland… You can always fly in by chopper also.

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