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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire Features »
Tolkien's Staffordshire past
Shuborough Hall
Is this the "House Of A Hundred Chimneys"?
Everything's coming up Tolkien again with the success of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

But did you know that there's a Staffordshire connection to Tolkien's life...?
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The Staffordshire cottage
The first connection between Tolkien and Staffordshire dates all the way back to the First World War.

Tolkien enlisted in the army and in 1916, was stationed at Cannock Chase in south Staffordshire.
His wife, Edith, whom he married in March of that year took a cottage at the village of Great Haywood, near Stafford, just to be close to him.

He lived in Cottage 1, Gipsy Green, on the Teddesley Park Estate, near Penkridge.
As an accomplished artist he did a series of his famous illustrations which include drawings of the redbrick semi-detached house, which had a number of chimneys.


Somme
But, in June, he was sent to France, where he saw action on the Western Front, just in time for the Somme offensive.

Though he survived that terrible battle, after four months in and out of the trenches, he succumbed to "trench fever" - a form of typhus-like infection - and in early November 1916, was sent back to England.

He spent that winter convalescing with Edith in the cottage at Great Haywood.

The works begin
The Staffordshire surroundings can thus lay claim to inspiring Tolkien's early fantasy writings.

During his leave in Great Haywood, in January and February 1917, Tolkien started to write the 'Book of Lost Tales'.

This book was the basis of a much more famous publication and indeed the book which describes the early history of Tolkien's mythical Middle-Earth - the Silmarillion.

Tavrobel
The Staffordshire connection can also be found in Tolkien's writings after a careful reading of these Tales.

In "The Tale of the Sun And The Moon", there is reference to the village of Tavrobel. Christopher Tolkien, JRR's son and literary executor, says this village is based on Great Haywood.

In evidence, Tavrobel has a bridge where two rivers (the Gruir and the Afros) meet. In Great Haywood, the Trent and the Sow meet at its "Essex" bridge.

Shugborough Hall
In the same tale, there is a gnome, Gilfanon, "whose ancient house - the House Of A Hundred Chimneys - stands nigh the bridge of Tavrobel".

Could this be the cottage that Tolkien and Edith stayed at?
Or even
Shugborough Hall, the nearby ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield? A count of the chimneys in the Hall reveals that, in all, there are eighty chimneys!

Even if he never visited the Hall, it is likely he saw the numerous blazing fires through the windows, as he walked along the adjacent public footpath.

Number one son
And in these months of romance, could there have been an even stranger connection?

Tolkien and Edith had married in early 1916, but had only had a few months together, so to all intents, were still newlyweds in the winter of 1916/17. Exactly nine months later, their first son John was born.

And Father John Tolkien - conceived in the hideaway cottage - went on to work for over thirty years in the county as a parish priest in Stoke on Trent.
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