Tyler's Row was built some two hundred years ago, in the reign of George III. Since then it has housed many diverse villages beneath its thatched roof: shepherds and washerwomen, carters and dressmakers, poachers and... for a short period in Victoria's time... a poet. But none, perhaps, loved it so well as its present owner Peter Hale, schoolmaster, who recently bought the property with an eye to converting all four cottages into one delectable dwelling, ready for his retirement. But things do not go smoothly. Behind the purple clemattis scrambling over the end cottage, old Mrs Fowler lives, growing more vindictive with the years. In a second cottage, screened by yellow roses much the same colour as his complexion, lurks another ancient tenant, ex-Sergeant Burnaby, who had been comrade-in-arms to the former landlord, Mr Bennett. Peter Hale and his wife watch the bitter skirmishes between the two with horror, and soon find themselves in the unenviable role of the bone between two savage dogs. If Sergeant Burnaby lights a bonfire, then Mrs Fowler is at the door in a trice to complain to the Hales about their tenant. If Mrs Fowler's dog dares to bark, then Sergeant Burnaby arrives to lodge his protest. Meanwhile, Fairacre watches with its usual keen interest in newcomers. Mrs Pringle and the schoolchildren regale Miss Read with a blow-by-blow account of the warfare, which is not always truthful. Under the village's scrutiny, beset with tenants, plumbers, carpenters, electricians... and a growing pile of bills... Peter Hale begins to wonder if Tyler's Row will ever be the haven he envisaged, or if the madhouse will claim him first.