Tilling is a fictional coastal town, based on Rye, East Sussex, in the Mapp and Lucia novels of Edward Frederic Benson (1867–1940).
Tilling takes its name from the River Tillingham which flows through Rye. Benson himself moved to Rye in 1918, where he lived in Lamb House, former home of the novelist Henry James. Benson was mayor of Rye 1934-7 and was elected Speaker of the Cinque Ports in 1936.
Tilling first appeared in Miss Mapp (1922) and subsequently in The Male Impersonator and Desirable Residences (short stories of 1929), Mapp and Lucia (1931), in which Emmeline Lucas ("Lucia") and Elizabeth Mapp clashed for the first time, Lucia's Progress (1935) and Trouble for Lucia (1939). The novelist Susan Leg, the subject of Secret Lives (1932), re-appeared in Trouble for Lucia.
The first Lucia book, Queen Lucia , was published in 1920. It was followed in 1927 by Lucia in London . Benson's The Freaks of Mayfair (1916) provided the genesis of some of the characters of Tilling. Specifically, "Aunt Georgie", a bachelor with a penchant for embroidery, provided the model for George Pillson, who, as with Lucia, with whom he entered into a platonic marriage in Lucia's Progress, originally lived at Riseholme (thought to have been modelled on Broadway) in the Cotswolds.
In Benson's final Lucia book, Trouble for Lucia, Tilling seems to be no longer in Sussex but in Hampshire.
In the 1980s, following the adaptations by Gerald Savory (1909–96) of Benson's novels for London Weekend Television (1985–86), in which Tilling was referred to as "Tilling-on-Sea" (a form unknown in the books), two pastiches by Tom Holt (b. 1961), based in Tilling, were published by Macmillan: Lucia in Wartime (1985) and Lucia Triumphant (1986). Holt also produced a short story, Diplomatic Incident, for the former Tilling Society in 1998 and another called Great Minds for the Friends of Tilling in 2006. The Friends of Tilling organise an annual gathering in Rye each September for devotees of Mapp & Lucia and E F Benson's other comic novels. Two other Tilling books, Major Benjy and Au Reservoir, were written by Guy Fraser-Sampson and published by Troubador. In 2014 the BBC made a new three-part series adapted by Steve Pemberton (who also played Georgie Pillson) from the original Mapp and Lucia novel.
Lamb House was the model for "Mallards", the home initially of Elizabeth Mapp and subsequently of Lucia, who renamed it Mallards House.
Cynthia & Tony Reavell (1984) E F Benson: Mr Benson remembered in Rye, and the World of Tilling contained a map of Tilling that drew on references in the books and the layout of Rye itself. A similar plan was reproduced in Holt's novels. In some instances, the street names of Tiling and Rye coincided – for example, High Street (the location of Godiva Plaistow's house, "Wasters") and West Street ("Quaint" Irene Coles' "Taormina") – but there were some variations: Mermaid Street became, in Tilling, Porpoise Street (where Algernon and Susan Wyse lived); Market Road was Malleson Street (Woolgar & Pipstow, the estate agents); and Watchbell Street was Curfew Street (the Trader's Arms).
In Rye a lookout, presented by Benson when he was mayor in 1935, stands towards the River Rother and Camber, with a plaque noting that its donor had "immortalised" the town as Tilling through his books.
The local newspaper in the TV version was the Tilling Gazette and in the book Lucia's Progress it was the Hastings Chronicle but in Trouble for Lucia, this inexplicably became the Hampshire Argus (editor, Mr McConnell). (In Savory's adaptation for television, McConnell was introduced to Elizabeth Mapp by her intoxicated husband, Major Mapp-Flint, as "a veritable pilling of Tillar".)
The custom in Tilling of saying "au reservoir" as a valediction (in place of the French au revoir) was a feature of Miss Mapp, although it became apparent in Mapp and Lucia that it had originated with Lucia in Riseholme. It was transported to Tilling by Elizabeth Mapp who had stayed one summer at the Ambermere Arms in Riseholme. The lexicographer Eric Partridge suggested that in fact the term had originated in America in the 1880s.
Lucia's celebrated recipe Lobster à la Riseholme was first served in Tilling in Mapp and Lucia.
A railway station opened in Rye in 1851 and there are various references in the Benson books to a local station. In the BBC's 2014 dramatisation, townsfolk gather at a station depicted as "Tilling Town" in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Prince of Wales. In John van Druten's play, Make Way for Lucia (1948), based on Benson's novels, Lucia refers to Georgie Pillson and Major Benjamin Flint having breakfasted together in East Tilling. This appears to be the next station on the line between Tilling and London.
Some of Benson's characters, notably Major Flint, use a tramway to get to the golf links outside the town. This was based on the Rye and Camber Tramway, which closed for good during the Second World War. The links station building remains, across the Rother from Rye Harbour, as does evidence of the track bed.
Benson's Mrs Ames (1912) was set in Riseborough, which also bore a resemblance to Rye. Though this antedated Benson's move to Rye, he already knew the town well, having, for example, first visited Henry James at Lamb House in 1900.
A village called Tilling Green, in the fictional county of Ledshire, appeared in one of Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver stories, Poison in the Pen (1955).
Edward Frederic Benson was an English novelist, biographer, memoirist, archaeologist and short story writer.
The Confederation of Cinque Ports is a historic series of coastal towns in Kent, Sussex and Essex. It was originally formed for military and trade purposes, but is now entirely ceremonial. The ports lie at the eastern end of the English Channel, where the crossing to the continent is narrowest. The name is Norman French, meaning "five ports". They were:
Romney Marsh is a sparsely populated wetland area in the counties of Kent and East Sussex in the south-east of England. It covers about 100 square miles (260 km2). The Marsh has been in use for centuries, though its inhabitants commonly suffered from malaria until the 18th century. Due to its location, geography, and isolation, it was a smuggler's paradise between the 1600s and 1800s. The area has long been used for sheep pasture; Romney Marsh sheep are considered one of the most successful and important sheep breeds. Criss-crossed with numerous waterways, and with some areas lying below sea level, the Marsh has over time sustained a gradual level of reclamation, both through natural causes and by human intervention.
Rye is a small town and civil parish in the Rother district, in East Sussex, England, two miles from the sea at the confluence of three rivers: the Rother, the Tillingham and the Brede. In medieval times, as an important member of the Cinque Ports confederation, it was at the head of an embayment of the English Channel, and almost entirely surrounded by the sea.
The Rye and Camber Tramway was an English railway in East Sussex. It was of 3 ft narrow gauge, relatively unusual amongst British narrow gauge railways. It operated from 1895 until 1939, connecting Rye to the coast. It was about 1 3⁄4 miles (2.8 km) in length, and had three stations - Rye, Golf Links and Camber Sands. It operated mainly to transport golfers to the golf links and holidaymakers to the coastal dunes.
Mapp and Lucia is a collective name for a series of novels by E. F. Benson and also the name of two British television adaptations based on those novels.
Hastings and Rye is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2019 by Sally-Ann Hart of the Conservatives. From 2010 until 2019, it was represented by Amber Rudd. She served as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Minister for Women and Equalities, Home Secretary and Work and Pensions Secretary under the governments of David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
Lamb House is a Grade II* listed 18th-century house situated in Rye, East Sussex, England, and in the ownership of the National Trust.
Riseholme is a fictional Elizabethan village in the Cotswolds in the "Lucia" novels of Edward Frederic Benson (1867–1940). It is thought to have been based on Broadway, Worcestershire.
Rye Particular Baptist Chapel is a former Strict Baptist place of worship in Rye, an ancient hilltop town in Rother, one of six local government districts in the English county of East Sussex. Built in the 18th century on the site of a decaying Quaker meeting house, it served Baptists in the town for many years until a new chapel was constructed nearby. The chapel is a Grade II Listed building.
Lucinda Gane was a British actress, known for her role as the absent-minded science teacher Miss Terri Mooney in the children's television serial Grange Hill; a role she played from 1980–1983. In 1985–1986 she played Georgie Pillson's trusty housemaid Foljambe in two series of Mapp and Lucia, adapted by London Weekend Television from the novels of E. F. Benson. She also appeared in Thomas and Sarah, a spin-off from Upstairs, Downstairs, playing Emily Rudge.
The Mermaid Inn is a Grade II* listed historical inn located on Mermaid Street in the ancient town of Rye, East Sussex, southeastern England. One of the best-known inns in southeast England, it was established in the 12th century and has a long, turbulent history. The current building dates from 1420 and has 16th-century additions in the Tudor style, but cellars built in 1156 survive. The inn has a strong connection with the notorious Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers, who used it in the 1730s and 1740s as one of their strongholds: Rye was a thriving port during this period. Some of the smugglers, their mistresses and other characters are reported to haunt the inn.
In February 1287 a storm hit the southern coast of England with such ferocity that whole areas of coastline were redrawn. Silting up and cliff collapses led to towns that had stood by the sea finding themselves landlocked, while others that had been inland found themselves with access to the sea.
Mapp and Lucia is a British drama television series that was first broadcast on BBC One from 29 to 31 December 2014. The three-part series, adapted by Steve Pemberton and directed by Diarmuid Lawrence, is based on E. F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia collection of novels. The series features an ensemble cast, with British actresses Miranda Richardson and Anna Chancellor playing the eponymous characters Elizabeth Mapp and Emmeline 'Lucia' Lucas. It is set in the Sussex coastal town of Tilling, based very closely on Rye, East Sussex, where it was filmed and where Benson lived. Although attracting modest viewing figures, the series received positive reviews from critics.
Mapp and Lucia is a British television series, set in the fictional Sussex coastal town of Tilling-on-Sea and based on three 1930s novels by E. F. Benson, beginning with Mapp and Lucia. It was produced by London Weekend Television, filmed in Rye and neighbouring Winchelsea in the 1980s, and starred Prunella Scales as Mapp, Geraldine McEwan as Lucia, Nigel Hawthorne as Georgie, and Denis Lill as Major Benjy. The script was by Gerald Savory. There were ten episodes, broadcast on Channel 4 in 1985 and 1986. These have been repeated over the years, and a new BBC adaptation, Mapp and Lucia, aired in 2014.
Queen Lucia is a 1920 comic novel written by E. F. Benson. It is the first of six novels in the popular Mapp and Lucia series, about idle women in the 1920s and their struggle for social dominance over their small communities. This book introduces Emmeline Lucas, known as Lucia to her friends, the social queen of the fictional Elizabethan village of Riseholme, as well as her husband Philip ("Peppino") Lucas, her best friend Georgie Pillson and her friendly rival, Daisy Quantock.
Rye railway station was a terminal station on the Rye and Camber Tramway in East Sussex, connecting Rye to Camber.
Miss Mapp is a 1922 comic novel written by E. F. Benson. It is the second of six novels in the popular Mapp and Lucia series, about idle women in the 1920s and their struggle for social dominance over their small communities. This book introduces Miss Mapp, the social tyrant of the fictional coastal town of Tilling, and the cast of Tillingites, including Diva Plaistow, Major Benji Flint, Mr. and Mrs. Wyse, and Quaint Irene. Tilling was inspired by the town of Rye, where Benson lived, with his own commanding view of the High Street inspiring Mapp's domain, Mallards House.
Lucia in London is a 1927 comic novel written by E. F. Benson. It is the third of six novels in the popular Mapp and Lucia series, about idle women in the 1920s and their struggle for social dominance over their small communities. The second Lucia novel, it is a sequel to 1920's Queen Lucia. In this novel, Lucia leaves her small town of Riseholme and moves to London, where she attacks the city's social life with the same eager ferocity.
Mapp and Lucia is a 1931 comic novel written by E. F. Benson. It is the fourth of six novels in the popular Mapp and Lucia series, about idle women in the 1920s and their struggle for social dominance over their small communities. It brings together two sets of characters from three previous Benson novels: "Lucia" Lucas, Georgie Pillson and Daisy Quantock from Queen Lucia (1920) and Lucia in London (1927), and Miss Elizabeth Mapp and her neighbors from Miss Mapp (1922).