THE WIZARD OF
HOUSE & GARDENS
In 1990, 25-year-old East End boy John Tode bought the UK's most ordinary house, a three bedroom, semi-detached ex-council property in Essex. On Saturday 6th October of that year arrived at 51 Newton Green in a VW Beetle with everything he owned in the world on the back seat. Adopting his journalist pseudonym John Trevillian, he spent a quarter of a century working with 138 artists, artisans and volunteers transforming the house and gardens into ‘Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home’ (The Times).
Once the house and gardens were completed on Tuesday 6th October 2015, as author John Tarrow, he wrote The Stranger's Guide To Talliston, the fantasy adventure fictionalising that amazing journey. Then, after 30 years working and living inside this unique and inspirational project, at his 55th birthday on Saturday 18th January 2020, he gave the house and everything in it to The Talliston Fellowship and left the house and gardens just as he had arrived: in a VW Beetle with everything he owned in the world on the back seat.
Years 1 – 25 | 18 January 1965 – 18 January 1990
Persona | Bard | Huan Caius Mereddin
Bird totem | Raven
Life phase | Knowing
John Edward Tode was born to parents Jean & Ronald Tode on 18th January 1965 in London's East End. His early life found within him a love of stories and writing and he spent his childhood with a Smith Corona Calypso typewriter and a wild imagination, both of which he still owns. Inspired by swords and sorcery, he became captivated by ancient and medieval history and through channels such as Dungeons & Dragons and The Far Isles Medieval Society, he studied Celtic poetry, song and story – forming the persona of Huan Caius Mereddin, an exiled bard living in an abandoned tower in Wales. Adopting the raven as his totem bird, and moving both physically and spiritually far from his urban origins, he began to make his plans for taking the life he was given and forging it into a life he wanted.
With no formal building or interior design training, using just the power of his own imagination, Tode began to create a world that truly reflected the life that he wanted to live in all the places he wanted to live in. Divorcing himself from time and place, he began each room with a question, looking through the magnolia walls and beyond the cramped dimensions into far larger worlds. And in finding the house he also found himself.
Years 26 – 50 | 18 January 1990 – 18 January 2015
Persona | Shaman | Antony R. Kane
Bird totem | Eagle
Life phase | Doing
“We are us. We are unique. We should surround our selves with those who unconditionally accept these two things”
John Edward Trevillian received his first writing credit as a regular contributor to Dennis Publishing's Computer Shopper magazine; a column read by more people every month than read Stephen King novels. While pursuing a career as a managing editor, he bought 51 Newton Green, a three-bedroomed, semi-detached, ex-council house in Essex and began transforming the box-room into his perfect place to write. Having never left the UK, inspiration came from his love of 1920s and 1930s noir films and books and he reimagined the empty oatmeal-coloured room into the office of Antony R. Kane, an explorer and occult investigator in New York city. Working with his father and sourcing period features and fittings from antique shops in and around London, Trevillian eventually went to the USA to bring back the first of almost 2,000 objects into the finished house. When furniture did not fit the room's dimensions, he worked with local carpenter to recreate an apothecary bookcase that perfectly matched the authentic desk and cabinetry.
The eventual quarter-century project saw 138 people work creatively on the house and gardens. Not including utilities, building and structural workers, this total only includes the artisans and artists responsible for the willow weaving, stained glass, fabric weaving, metalwork, woodwork and architectural reconstructions – plus a small army of volunteers drawn to Talliston's unique vision. Filled with the belief that the secret lies within all of us to create the world we want, Trevillian intuiting the eagle's strength and determination and began to write. In his time at the house, three novels (The A-Men dark future trilogy), two works of non-fiction (The Talliston Book of Days & The Talliston Room Atlas) and two poetry collections have emerged from this tiny space, deftly illustrating his idea that our environment deeply affects our wellbeing.
Years 51 – 75 | 18 January 2015 – 18 January 2040
Persona | Wizard | Nirromelhe
Bird totem | Owl
Life phase | Being
Now a novelist, poet, storyteller and award-winning writer, once the 9,132 days of the house and gardens project were completed, John Edward Tarrow wrote the novel exploring the deeper mythology and magic of his creation (The Stranger's Guide To Talliston). This took his lifelong fascination with folk and faerie tales that took him around the world, gathering threads of story and legend to weave into his own mythologies. As the story of an ordinary boy stepping into an ordinary house to go on an extraordinary initiation journey in the Otherworld.
After decades on the path of becoming a Bard, Ovate & Druid and studying Native Shamanism with wise teachers in the Lakota Sioux and Navajo nations, Tarrow began investigating Elizabethan and the roots of wizardry. Adopting the magical persona Nirromelhe and under the watchful eyes of a snowy owl photographed on holiday in Cornwall when he was nine-years-old, he took these spiritual paths and practices, weaving them together into his own philosophies and beliefs. The resulting work, The Talliston Grimoire: The Magical Guidebook to Britain's Most Extraordinary Home explores both the creation of the house and gardens, but also its quintessence; the transformational powers of imagination, self-belief and how alchemical design can truly turn lead into gold.
On his fifty-fifth birthday in 2020, after thirty years living inside his perfect world, Tarrow left the house and gardens to move into his final phase of life, that of a wandering storyteller on the journey to new adventures. Perfectly illustrating his blatant disregard for time and money, this move allowed others to experience his home just as readers experience his stories. Behind he leaves a true testament to the power of dreaming and proof positive that imagination is far greater than reality. When John began this was just an idea, now it has a name: Shadowmagick. The answer to the question: "What is life?" And how the answer is unique and personal to us all. So: It is time to follow your dream. Because, really, what’s the alternative?
“The places we live in are the people we become. So, change your world”
“Money has no power; we give Money power.
Imagine if we gave Nature that power.”
“Time has no power; we give Time power.
Imagine if we gave Life that power.”