One of the first priorities was to improve the drainage of water around the site. Land drains were inserted on both sides, and another runs under the kitchen, to encourage water that previously flowed past the doors to remain under the surface. Some difficulty was experienced due to the fact that the ground was in places solid granite. At the same time, the area of granite paving in front of the porch was uncovered, separating Sanders from the green. The wall enclosing a small garden area in front of the house was repaired. Later, an electricity pole which stood in the middle of the green was taken down, and the electricity supply for the hamlet brought in by underground cables, so that the green was not marred by unsightly criss-crossing wires.
On the building itself, the roof was the most urgent job. The roof of the house had been renewed not all that long before with asbestos slates, but the shippon roof was full of holes. The covering was stripped off completely, porch and lean-to included. Battens and rafters were repaired or replaced as necessary, and then random Delabole slates were laid, in diminishing courses. The porch needed a new wall plate. The gable end between dwelling and shippon had been slate-hung, but this was now rendered, with lead flashings.
The walls were not in need of major repair. A certain amount of ivy had to be cleaned off the north, or rear, wall. Small areas of rebuilding were needed, in the south wall of the porch, for instance, which included the replacement in granite of a previous brick repair; and over the loading door of the shippon; but for the most part it was only necessary to rake out defective pointing, and repoint with lime mortar. The chimneys were also repointed, and the granite cap of the hall chimney repaired; brick tops were replaced with slate cappings.
The main door surround had been repaired with a thick layer of cement. This was hacked off, and the jambs and head rebuilt or made good as necessary. The frames of all the outside doors were repaired, and the doors themselves.
Sanders during restoration
Over the window in the shippon, a new oak lintol was inserted. The windows in the lean-to also needed new lintols, and new window frames. All the other window frames were repaired. Drip moulds were provided over those on the front, being most exposed to the weather, to shed the copious Dartmoor rain.
Inside the cross-passage, the masonry of the chimney stack was cleaned and repointed. The plank partition on its lower side was repaired. In the shippon, apart from the clearance of accumulated rubbish, nothing was done at all.
In the dwelling, some alterations were made, however. The first of these was the removal of the stair that had been inserted against the North wall. This allowed the repair of the oak post and panel screen, and the doorway in it. One muntin was found wedged in above the jetty beam, and so was put back in its right place, and the jetty beam repaired as well. In addition to parts of the screen itself, one door jamb was renewed, copying the existing original, and the sill beam also had to be renewed. The door itself is new.
A new timber stair was then built in the 17th-century position, in the supposed Elizabethan chimney breast, which had latterly been a cupboard. The solid treads are chestnut, and the newel posts, balusters and handrail are oak. The marks of the original, probably stone, treads could be seen in the plaster. The small window was discovered while work was in progress.
The other alteration inside the house was to take up the existing screed floor in the present kitchen, and to lay a new slate-paved floor at the same level as the hall, which meant lowering it a few inches, and underpinning the walls at this end, since they rested on the ground where the original builders followed the slope of the hill. The Bungalow Belle stove was dismantled and reassembled in the same position, but at the new level. A new floor of quarry tiles was also laid in the lean-to, where a new bathroom replaced the existing one. The lintol of the door to the lean-to also had to be renewed, and the frame and door repaired, as were those to the kitchen.
Downstairs, all that remained to be done was to remove existing plaster, to reveal the fine masonry of the walls, which were repointed and then limewashed. The back wall of the fireplace was exposed, where it had been plastered over, and the bread oven repaired. The two former window openings were discovered in the north wall, and left as niches. The purpose of the niches in the wall between hall and inner room is unknown. The little corner cupboard in the hall came with the house, and was repaired by Blight and Scoble's joiner, who also made the dresser for the kitchen.
The ceiling in the hall, which is lath and plaster, was simply made good where necessary, but in the kitchen a new plaster ceiling replaced recently inserted flaxboard, both there and in the bedroom above.
Upstairs, all the ceilings were removed, and reformed to follow the line of the roof, with insulation above. In the small bedroom, insulation was put under the floor as well, and in the partition between it and the shippon. Oak boards were laid directly on the joists of the cross-passage ceiling, then the insulation, and then new softwood boards. The floorboards in the other two rooms are the old elm ones, repaired where necessary, and with a new section where the stair used to come up into the middle room. The removal of the stair also meant that the partition with the small bedroom needed making up, where it had been cut away to provide headroom.
Plaster was removed from the main trusses, to leave them visible in the middle room, or upper hall. Here you can see both the early crucks, and the later principal rafters, inserted when slate replaced the original thatch.
In the large bedroom, the fireplace was opened up and provided with a new granite lintol. The walls were limewashed, as they had always been, the colour matching as closely as possible the former rich golden shade.
In the yard behind the house, the outbuildings were also in need of repair. The walls of the linhay, stable and pigsty were all rebuilt and repointed, and the roof of the linhay made good. The barn was in the worst condition, and had been given a corrugated iron roof. When the collapsing walls had been rebuilt, it was given a new roof of Devon wheat reed thatch. The thatcher was Mr Warren, of Lower Venton Farm, Widecombe.
The work on the main house was completed, and the dwelling furnished, in March 1978. The only hitch had come from a neighbouring farmer who had acquired ownership of the green some years before from the Lees of Higher Lettaford. In spite of the fact that previous owners of Sanders had repaired the roof, and stood their scaffolding on the green without anyone minding, he raised every objection possible to Landmark's scaffolding being erected thereon, and the builders standing any materials or equipment there, finally issuing an injunction requiring it all to be cleared away. He was very unwilling to allow access to Sanders at all, but after protracted and Dickensian legal negotiations, Landmark finally acquired the green in front of Sanders, and down to the stream, in 1987.
When they wrote their article on Sanders in 1972, Alcock, Child and Laithwaite stated in their introduction that "impending modernisation will inevitably conceal, if not destroy, some significant features". Sadly this has indeed been the case with all too many long-houses that survived in tact until after the War, only to fall victim to modernisation in the last few decades. But happily it has not, after all, been the case at Sanders.