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A carpenter works on one of the windows
By Laura Joint
The family home of Agatha Christie, Greenway, has been turned into a building site, as it undergoes a £5.4 million revamp.
The imposing family home of Torquay-born crime writer Dame Agatha Christie is looking very sorry for itself at the moment.
Greenway sits majestically on a hill overlooking the River Dart at Galmpton - but it's looking anything but majestic.
In fact, you can barely see it at all, as it is all wrapped up like a Christmas present while building contractors battle to keep the seemingly endless rain out during its £5.4 million renovation.
The builders moved in at the end of June 2007, and they will be there for most of 2008.
Greenway - all wrapped up against the elements
Not a single room at Greenway has been left untouched by the assortment of plasterers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and decorators.
There are holes everywhere you look - in walls, floors and ceilings, where the contractors are busy putting things right.
There wasn't a roof the day I visited, but the lead was being craned into place. For the time being though, corrugated tin and plastic sheeting is keeping out the elements.
This is a huge job, and it is being paid for thanks to a successful public appeal by the National Trust, which was gifted the house by Dame Agatha's family.
Looking up to see no ceiling or roof!
The contents were also handed to the trust, and they will be on display when the house is opened to the public in March 2009.
The contents - including collections of Agatha Christie's works - have all been removed and are being catalogued while the work is taking place.
The trust also manages the gardens at Greenway, which will be open in summer 2008 as usual.
For now, it's all hands to the pumps to get the building in order. The trust was aware of major structural problems before the work - but more problems are being uncovered as the builders make their way through the house.
The trust's property manager at Greenway, Robyn Brown, said: "We have found significant problems. But we have allowed for a great many problems, so in terms of budget and timing, we are okay.
"But this building was at far more risk than we realised."
Robyn (right) - and some of the medieval stone
For safety reasons, no hot work is allowed - which means no blow torches, and that is proving a challenge for the plumbers and roofers.
All the work is being done with consideration to the environment, and existing materials are being used as much as possible.
The building will have renewable energy, in the form of solar panels and a ground source heat pump.
The current house dates back to the late 1700s, but there was a much older house on the site before, and stones from some of the original medieval walls are being 'recycled' for use during the renovation.
Work in the cellar has uncovered the original medieval stone floor. The greater horseshoe bats which roost in the cellars are being accommodated in a specially-made bat roost nearby while the work is done.
The main downstairs rooms will be opened to the public - and put to use. So the kitchen will be open for teas and coffees, and people can dine in the dining room.
The front rooms on the first floor will also be open to the public, while other rooms will be used as holiday apartments, which will help to fund Greenway.
The house was the home of Dame Agatha's daughter, Rosalind Hicks and her husband Anthony Hicks, until their deaths in 2004 and 2005.
Although it looks like a building site in early 2008, Robyn says the workmen are making good progress: "We're going great guns - we are very, very positive about how it's all going."
last updated: 05/03/2008 at 09:40