Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap Donation Helps The Arts

On 25 November 1952, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End.

She gifted the rights to the play to her Welsh grandson, Mathew Prichard, as a ninth birthday present. Investing the tens of millions of pounds it has grossed in the past seven decades of over 28,500 shows, Mr Prichard set up the Colwinston Trust.

The trust has gone on to support some of Wales’ most famous venues, including the Wales Millennium Centre, The Welsh National Opera, and Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre.

Set in a bleak guesthouse cut off by a snow storm, The Mousetrap is regarded as one of the finest exponents of the so-called closed room detective genre. Agatha Christie bet her agent it would last “eight months… 14 tops”.

Yet since 1995, its legacy has supported theatrical enterprises from north to south Wales, with grants ranging from £5,000 to £1m. Mr Prichard said: “To be honest with you, I don’t remember an awful lot about the day I received the documents, at nine. I think I’d have rather have had a Spitfire Airfix model.”

However, as he grew into his teens he began to realise the enormity of the gift he had been given.

He said: “My grandmother joked with me that if she’d have known how long The Mousetrap would run then she’d have left it to the cat’s home or something, but she really knew what she’d done.”

After a career in publishing, in the 1990s – as The Mousetrap clocked up its 20,000th West End showing – Mathew turned his attention to divesting his grandmother’s legacy into his favourite causes where he grew up in Vale of Glamorgan. Agatha Christie spent both world wars serving as a dispenser for pharmacies and met her second husband on an archaeological dig.

He said: “Agatha had always had a prodigious imagination, spending her childhood largely on her own. “But without the knowledge of drugs and pathology which life put in her way, who’s to say that she’d have developed into quite the same gripping author.”

Agatha Christie was born in Torquay in 1890, and remains the best-selling novelist of all time. She published 66 detective novels, 14 short-story collections and wrote the world’s longest-running play, The Mousetrap.

Notable books include Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and Crooked House and many of her books have been adapted into movies, including Death on the Nile this year, starring Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot

Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and a billion in translation and is outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare.

Christie died from natural causes at the age of 85 on 12 January 1976.