Tegleaze

The Dolphin & Anchor, Chichester (credit: J D Wetherspoons)

Those who’ve been following my vademecum as I explore Joan Aiken’s The Cuckoo Tree will realise that, unlike some of the other Wolves Chronicles, the author has based many of her fictional places on ones still existing in our world. For example, the Dolphin Inn in Chichester, where Dido hired a carriage for the wounded Captain Hughes and herself, is an 18th-century coaching inn just north of and opposite the cathedral, and now a Wetherspoons pub known as The Dolphin & Anchor. It’s from here that landlord Ben Noakes lent two of his horses and where ‘Bosky’ Dick proved the least reliable carriage driver to take the pair overnight to London.

In this illustrated post we’re going to follow the hapless passengers through a small part of West Sussex; later we’ll be plotting Dido’s journey through Petworth and on towards London.

From Chichester to Petworth it’s a mere 14 miles, but the carriage-and-pair doesn’t even make it that far. The road follows the course of Stane Street, the Roman road to London, only a little beyond Halnaker, about four miles out from Chichester. The present A285 then diverges north from Stane Street over the crest of Benges Hill, and at roughly five miles from Chichester Bosky Dick crashes the carriage. The carriage had left the Dolphin at 5 o’clock so it we can suppose it’s between 6 and 7pm at this stage.

Map of part of West Sussex showing Stane Street (red), Wey and Arun waterway (blue), Dido’s route to Petworth and Stopham Bridge (green)

Leaving Captain Hughes (who has fainted) in the crashed carriage Dido rides one of the horses along the muddy lane — now the A285 of course — in a north northeasterly direction. After about a ten-minute trot she comes to a crossroads (more accurately, “a spot where four or five tracks meet”). There are a couple of options here when identifying where this might be. It could be by present-day House Farm, Upwaltham, near where the little 12th-century church of St Mary’s sits in glorious isolation, and where various farm tracks congregate; alternatively it’s a little further along, by Littleton Farm, Upwaltham, where crop marks in a field indicate the presence of what one assumes is part of the lost village of Upwaltham. Nevertheless Dido spots no lights or houses anywhere on this dark evening.

Aerial view of part of Upwaltham (image Google Earth)

The Wineberry Men direct Dido up a track to the left toward Tegleaze Manor. From the endpaper map of the novel’s original hardback edition it appears this is up a track heading east from the vicinity of Upwaltham House Farm, though the farm is naturally unmarked. Unfortunately for our purposes there is no manor anywhere near this position, nor is the map reliable as the directions Dido is given don’t quite correspond. So we may discount Tegleaze Farm just off the South Downs Way on Tegleaze Down (its highest point is Crown Tegleaze) as too far and too isolated.

The endpaper map from the original hardback edition of The Cuckoo Tree

Tegleaze needs a bit of explanation. Teg is a dialect word for a yearling sheep, that is, an animal (usually a ewe) in its second year, while leaze here refers to land reserved for pasture. It’s therefore unsurprising that the ten Wineberry Men choose to identify themselves with numbers taken from two sheep-counting systems, or that Dido makes friends with the blind shepherd Tom Firkin at Dogkennel Cottages. However, the manor itself has no obvious connection with sheep. The name of the former hamlet in this area, Waltham, was originally Old English weald-ham or ‘settlement in the wood’, an indication of what actually existed here in the Anglo-Saxon period — a swathe of trees.

Sketch map of Tegleaze (not to scale)

From the road Dido follows a “loamy ride, under an avenue of tall trees”. She soon comes to “a pair of massive stone pillars”. Passing between them the path takes her on a sharp bend to the left round “a hummock of ground”. After another five minutes she arrives at what is plainly

a very large mansion, set in a fold of the hillside, with a dark mass of trees behind it and a broad sweep of grass in front.

West front of Petworth House from the park (Paul Gillett / Gate to Petworth Park / CC BY-SA 2.0)

A portico with white marble pillars form the main entrance. “Coo, it’s a big place, ennit?” Dido remarks to Gusset, the aged butler. It’s impossible to identify which mansion Joan Aiken may have based Tegleaze Manor on. It’s tempting to suggest Petworth House, which has parkland and an approach from the west through an avenue of tall trees, like Tegleaze’s beech avenue. Goodwood House back towards Chichester has an impressive portico. It’s unlikely that Joan had anything less impressive than these Restoration or Georgian neoclassical piles in mind for Tegleaze.

Goodwood House in 1844

The exterior of the mansion is much easier to fathom from the page than the interior. A high yew hedge borders the lawn. (The yew is traditionally a tree associated with death, for centuries planted in churchyards, its berries and foliage poisonous to humans and livestock respectively.)

When Dido first visits she arrives unannounced at the front door under the portico, but when she visits Tobit on his own she takes a slightly different route. She has to follow the drive (what he calls the track) but then has to turn right at the top — presumably the top of the drive — and go across a sunken lawn that was formerly a tilting yard. (Tiltyards were originally enclosed spaces dedicated to medieval jousting.) The Tegleaze tilting yard had later been planted with yews in pairs clipped into pineapple shapes but now grown into odd forms after years of neglect.

Dido then had to go up the steps at the end of the house, along a terrace, through the walled garden known as the Lavender Court to the South Door, hidden under a south-facing vine.

Sketch plan of Tegleaze Manor, not to scale. I assume the walled garden is on the same side of the house as the stable yard with the terrace stretching the whole length of the side elevation. The flagged path probably skirts the walled garden

The interior is more confusing to navigate. There is a large hall reached from the porticoed entrance, several flights of stairs, private rooms and so forth. A small room off the main hall belongs to Cousin Wilfred, and features a doll’s house, a perfect miniature of Tegleaze Manor. Its windows overlook the tiltyard. The whole house is shabby, having seen better days, and the only obvious servants are a pair of bewigged footmen and the old butler.

From the crashed carriage site the chalk road continues north, past the long beech avenue of Tegleaze Manor on the left, then along gentle grassy slopes and

into a long shallow valley at the far of which, under a hill round and bare as a bald head, Dido could see a little row of cottages with one or two outbuildings and a couple of haystacks. ‘Them’s Dogkennels,’ Pelmett said with relief.

The round eminence behind Dogkennel Cottages is Farm Hill. Dido’s impression is of flint-built poverty-stricken dwellings, with broken windows and derelict gardens. Apart from two of the cottages — those of Mrs Daisy Lubbage and Mr Tom Firkin — the buildings are empty.

Into one of these Captain Hughes is placed to rest and recover, with Dido to administer to him. If only he could remain safe here until he’s able to travel on to London.

Dogkennel Cottages (Google street view)

North of Farm Hill is another chalk eminence, Barlavington Down (or Barlton Down, in the local dialect) and it’s up this hill that Dido goes to find one particular yew, the Cuckoo Tree.

While the Tegleaze Manor yews are redolent of sinister mysteries and, ultimately, death, the Cuckoo Tree proves to be a quiet haven for Cris and a safe rendezvous for the Wineberry Men: a symbol of life perhaps.


A future post will feature Petworth, a town in which Joan Aiken’s family lived for a while and where Dido gets embroiled in further adventures. Then we will follow Dido’s rapid mission to save the future King Richard IV at his coronation in London‘s St Paul’s Cathedral.

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13 thoughts on “Tegleaze

    1. Thank you very much! I love her world building in this alternative history where the global geography is similar to but not quite the same as our own. Do hope you enjoy the first Wolves story — and don’t forget to revisit my analyses on it after you’ve read it! 😊

            1. Yes, libraries often discard books when they’re no longer borrowed regularly, which is a shame. My collection is half and half, some bought new and the others acquired secondhand from charity shops over the years.

              Sadly the range of kids books available in UK charity shops seems to be narrowing — I hope that’s because kids (or their parents) chose to hang on to their copies due to their inherent emotional value rather than that fewer children’s and YA novels are being purchased in the first place. Either way, I’m the one losing out… (But that’s a good think, right?)

            2. In this case they seem only to have had the first one and it has been lost. I’m not sure if the others have been translated. It is a pity, I greatly enjoyed it now but would have loved it as a child. However, I guess the Norwegian wolves might be grateful, they don’t really need more fearmongering…

  1. Pingback: Tegleaze — Calmgrove – Earth Balm Creative

  2. I remember Joan Aiken being one of my favorites as a child of 12 or 13. Sounds like she has stood the test of time and bears rereading. I remember her being one of the few women authors i could find on the shelves which tended to be dominated by men, or women pretending to be men.

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