Cotswolds furniture restorer Clive Payne made a unique discovery whilst restoring an early 18th-century bureau that had been bought from the estate of Agatha Christie. The bureau, which had been brought in by a private client, had been sitting in Clive’s workshop for 3 years before he began work on it.
Removing the back from the bureau revealed two folded pieces of paper which were nearly discarded. Glancing at the papers, Clive realised that one was a telegram from Noel Coward to Agatha Christie, dated September 1957, reluctantly congratulating her on The Mousetrap breaking the record for the longest run of a play in the West End.
The bureau dates from approximately 1710 and is walnut veneer on a pine carcass. It features 3 secret drawers and a well, which is probably where the papers were originally filed away for safekeeping.
The discovery backed up the information provided with the bureau which had been purchased from a sale in Exeter in 2006, listed as a sale of surplus furniture from ‘Greenways’, Agatha Christie’s home on the river Dart. The property is now owned by The National Trust.
Hidden away with the telegram was a receipt from ‘Miss Elliot’ shop in London, purveyor of ‘Model Lingerie, House Gowns, Dressing Gowns and Bed Jackets’ and addressed to Mrs Mallowan, the surname of Christie’s second husband. The bill details charges of £24 13s 6d dated January 1st 1952.