Talliston House and gardens – Tour of a secret house

Talliston house Essex

In 1990 John Trevillian had a great idea; to take the most unassuming looking house, a 3 bed semi detached ex council house in Essex, and turn it into something really quite spectacular and so on 6th October, that year, at midday as he passed the threshold the Talliston House and Gardens Project was born.

I went along to Talliston House with a group of friends to see for myself. This is one of those projects that the more you dig the more you find and the more curious you get and the less you want to leave as something in the house inspires you, wraps you in warmth and it has you marvelling at all the wonderful things there are to see, smell and touch. It’s a bombardment to the senses.

Talliston Labyrinth

It’s a bit like stepping into a time machine as you open the gate to the front garden and you start to follow the labyrinth that takes you through the house passing each room which transports you to a different location and time in history.

The process is to deconstruct each room back to the brickwork and rebuild from scratch, so that upon completion not one square centimetre of the original house will remain (that’s inside and out). Using only those tradesmen essential to compliance with building regulations (structural, electric and gas), the rest of the skills (from carpentry, bricklaying and garden landscaping to the more esoteric like basket weaving, gold leafing and treehouse construction) have been learned during its lifecycle. During the project, we’ve also seen other craftspeople, artists, architects and volunteers get involved into what is now a veritable community.

A project with the time limit of 25 years. A project that will finish on 6th October 2015. A project that is in financial difficulty with the threat of being lost forever.

Talliston means ‘hidden place’ and each room in the house has a story. A story that incorporates over 1,650 antiques and authentic objects sourced from 27 countries. 

I don’t want to see this project fail so close to the finish line. So allow me to show you around the place

The Labyrinth

Front Garden | Earth | The Old Rectory

is based around an eighteenth century Anglican rectory house built upon a prehistoric standing stone circle – including a powerful earth-fast stone at the centre of the Yorkstone pathways. Stepping through the hornbeam thicket, you’ll enter a beautiful yet practical Victorian Gothic Revival labyrinth garden with working vegetable patch and knotwork cottage style garden. 

Is your first point on the labyrinth, as you can see it is yet to be completed but it’s taking shape. The gate is beautiful and once the surrounding green has grown it will create a unique window onto the house, a secret view.

Talliston House Garden

The enormous stone standing directly in front of the door took my breath away, it is placed perfectly on the north south east west axis and holds the map of the labyrinth.

talliston house labyrinth

There is a rabbit hole which will be unplugged soon and holds a surprise inside for inquisitive people and the closer you look the more surprises you will find, see the bee below, sign of industriousness.

Talliston house garden


The Watchtower

Living and Dining Room | Fire | The Mead Hall of TWR-Â-GÂN

Entered via The Hall of Mirrors which is yet to be finished but as you open the door on this room you will catch your breath. 

 talliston house The watchtower

You step into a Victorian watchtower, the entire room is inspired by Mead Hall of Twr-â-gân, a lot of Italian fabrics used in the room which have been especially made from antique templates. Look at this sofa and yes it was so comfy. The box in front holds Victorian games.

talliston house sofa italian

One last mention must go to the mouse hole in the room which can be found by lying on the floor and peering under the dresser

talliston house mouse hole

and so I opened the door, right? Look what I found!

talliston house mouse hole

The Voodoo Kitchen

Kitchen Extension | Earth | Manse L’Estrange

Possibly my favourite room, It’s bright and airy and based on a 1954 kitchen in New Orleans. I could have spent days in here looking at the ornaments and decorations around the room.

 talliston house voodoo kitchen

Legend has it that this locale was a favorite of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau at the height of her fame and power. Hereabouts she held her wild rituals and sacrifices, and fearful locals insist that the overgrown darkness of the trees near the Bayou’s mouth is still a place strictly to be avoided.
Here aresome of the finer details I discovered whilst looking around the room.

talliston house voodoo kitchen

The Fountain Courtyard

Back Garden | Water | Tigh Samhraidh

talliston fountain courtyard

Samhraidh Cottage in the Boyne Valley is thought to be the house of a witch. Constructed in 1875, the French Gothic style residence now belongs to a woman who has a long-time member of a small circus troupe known as Pandoro’s Travelling Fayre.

talliston fountain courtyard

The Office

Box-Room | Fire | Trevelyan Vean

talliston house office

Back in time to New York New York, 1929 and to a grand Jacobean mansion. Enter the office of writer and wealthy publisher, Jedediah Elston Trevillian. Its mix of oak furniture and cabinetry is less grandiose than other areas of the building, but does showcase the owner’s interest in the peculiar, the exotic and strange.

In late 1925, Trevillian died in this room aged 86 – and in a bizarre final twist to the eccentric’s life, his estate, company and fortune were willed not to his squabbling family, but instead to a seven-year-old boy caught trespassing in the grounds on the day of his death.

talliston house books office

The Room of Dreams

Guest bedroom | Air | Eish Al Kamar

Talliston houe room of dreams

This was my favourite room, I would love to sleep in here and have the opportunity to dream long dreams and wake up and remember them, to wonder about their significance and see if there was a message in them.

It’s is based on a private guest room in the Alhambra palace in Grenada, Spain. The room’s name refers to the seasonal rising of the moon behind the Atlas Mountains, appearing as an ivory egg in the bowl-shaped nest cradled against the shadows of the peaks.

Talliston house room of dreams

The Haunted Bedroom

Master Bedroom | Fire | Master Jack’s Bedroom

Talliston House Haunted bedroom

Spooky, eerie and uncomfortable are words I would use to describe this room. I couldn’t wait to get out but on the other hand was intrigued and ventured further in to explore. Which is probably how a haunted room is supposed to make you feel.

Based on a room in Stonehaven in Scotland, this bedchamber is a copy of the room decorated for the Macpherson’s first child Jack. Jack always complained of noises but it was only after his death that the first true hauntings began. The couple locked the room and sealed it with holy symbols vowing never to set foot in there again.
Talliston house haunted bedroom
Can you see the boys shoes under the chair with the ouija board on it? Creepy huh?

My tour sadly had to end here so I could rush back for the school run at 3pm but there is more to see and explore. Take a look a the Talliston website

There is so much more to discover and explore in this house and it’s an incredibly special place I really do suggest a viewing. 
If you can help in any way to keep the project going until then please take a look at the various ways you can below and join in and be a part of this genius idea.

We know the ultimate funding goal is ambitious, but laid out below is every financial target we need to reach to save the project – and even a small amount for enough people will be enough to keep the project alive.


  1. July 15, 2014 / 10:34 AM

    Thank you for sharing, it’s incredible! I do love the Fountain Courtyard, but I’m not sure that I’d sleep very well in the Haunted Bedroom!

    • Marianne Weekes
      July 18, 2014 / 3:45 PM

      I definitely wouldn’t sleep in the Haunted Bedroom – you’d need nerves of steel in there

  2. July 15, 2014 / 11:04 AM

    Oh wow – what a totally bonkers house! This is going on the list of things to do – beats a National Trust property hands down ;)

    • Marianne Weekes
      July 18, 2014 / 3:46 PM

      Ha ha, you’re right and the beauty is the more you look the more you discover.

  3. July 15, 2014 / 12:28 PM

    What an intriguing house and gardens, I love the idea that from the outside it looks like any other house but when you step inside you are transported to wonderland

    • Marianne Weekes
      July 18, 2014 / 3:46 PM

      The appearance is very deceptive and inside it feels like you’re Alice in Wonderland. Very well worth a visit

  4. July 15, 2014 / 8:07 PM

    Oh my goodness – I LOVE this place! So cool! And such incredible proof that dreaming big DOES work! Amazing what you can do. Thanks for sharing x

    • Marianne Weekes
      July 18, 2014 / 3:47 PM

      It is Katy you’re right, we must believe in our dreams and make them happen x

  5. July 15, 2014 / 9:42 PM

    What an amazing place. Completely unexpected when you think that it was a former council house. When I’ve got a mo I’m off to read more about this fascinating project. Thanks for sharing.

    • Marianne Weekes
      July 18, 2014 / 3:48 PM

      Do find time to read the website as it is astonishing the amount of thought and work that has gone into every single detail.

  6. becky
    July 16, 2014 / 6:56 AM

    oh that office is gorgoeus …I love his place!

    • Marianne Weekes
      July 18, 2014 / 3:48 PM

      Yes it is Becky, a ‘proper’ office where work would become play and enjoyable

    • Marianne Weekes
      July 18, 2014 / 3:49 PM

      It is, totally awesome, I’m so lucky to have visited

  7. July 16, 2014 / 10:13 AM

    That looks like the most incredible place. What a beautiful and fascinating place to explore?

    • Marianne Weekes
      July 18, 2014 / 3:50 PM

      An Aladdin’s cave of mysteries and secrets

  8. July 16, 2014 / 3:21 PM

    Oh I would have loved this place. The office! I love that desk. That would be my absolute forever dream desk. So so pretty and the kitchen and courtyard…

    • Marianne Weekes
      July 18, 2014 / 3:51 PM

      Then take note of John and make that dream come true ;)

  9. Marianne Weekes
    July 18, 2014 / 3:50 PM

    Ohh Annie, I would have loved to have seen you again and I am positive you’d have been in your element here and photography heaven!

  10. July 19, 2014 / 10:36 PM

    That certainly is one impressive project. I was intrigued when I read your description in #MBPW and the post did not disappoint. That mouse hole has to be one of the cutest thing I have ever seen.

    • July 21, 2014 / 6:29 PM

      I was! What a fabulous opportunity and my family really appreciated it too this weekend :)

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