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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
connection can also be found in Tolkien's writings after a careful reading of
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.
the same tale, there is a gnome, Gilfanon, "whose ancient house - the House
Of A Hundred Chimneys - stands nigh the bridge of Tavrobel".
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!
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.
And in these months of romance, could there have been an even
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.