How Staffordshire helped shape Tolkien’s Middle-earth

Tolkien StaffordMost will agree that JRR Tolkien is one of the world’s most successful writers whose books are read the world over and became blockbuster films, but less known about is the huge influence that our wonderful county had on him.

Tolkien arrived in Staffordshire in August 1915 as a young Army officer and so would begin a connection with Staffordshire that would span the remaining years of the Great War.  He spent time on the Great War training camps on Cannock Chase.  Here he remained until he was sent to France in June 1916 where he saw action at the Battle of the Somme.

In the spring of 1916 Tolkien’s wife Edith moved to nearby Great Haywood so that she could be close to him. He would visit as often as possible, walking down from Brocton across the Shugborough Estate and crossing Essex Bridge into the village. The village would host the couple later that year when Tolkien returned from France to recuperate from trench fever. Here he began work on writings that would form origin stories for Middle-earth – The Fall of Gondolin and The Cottage of Lost Play – the first stories of The Book of Lost Tales.

It’s an amazing story and we’re incredibly proud that Staffordshire had such an influence on Tolkien’s writing.  It’s great to see some of our most treasured locations like Shugborough Hall, Essex Bridge, Brocton Coppice and the beautiful Sherbrook Valley on Cannock Chase, all providing such wonderful inspiration.

This month I’d urge people to take some time to visit our exciting new exhibition that will be in Stafford Library celebrating his life and his links with Staffordshire.  Learn about what shaped his novels, see copies of illustrations he made in Staffordshire, old photos and have a go on a Morse code machine.  You can watch a quick video here of the exhibition.

The exhibition has been touring the county now since March 2016 and Over 70,000 visitors have turned up to see it.  It’s been so popular we’ve even had to add some additional dates to the tour.  You can find out more about the story and where it’s due to visit next at the Staffordshire Great War website

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