November 27, 2001

New Tolkien Library to Open at Stonyhurst
Press Release

With the filming of J.R.R. Tolkien’s timeless trilogy classics, The Lord of the Rings, complete, and with the first film, The Fellowship of the Rings, due to be released later this year, it will not be long until cinema goers are plunged into the world of Tolkien’s fantastical adventures.

It was during his time spent staying at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley that J.R.R. Tolkien penned the long awaited story of The Lord of the Rings, encouraged to do so by numerous requests from those who had read and loved The Hobbit.

Some of the most dramatic and vivid chapters were written during the war years – from Gandalf’s fall into darkness in Moria, written in 1941, to the long, painful journey of Frodo and Sam into Moria, which occupied much of 1944.

During these years, J.R.R. Tolkien visited his eldest son, John, who was studying for the priesthood, and who had been evacuated with the English College in Rome, to the Jesuit seminary at St. Mary’s Hall, now the preparatory school for Stonyhurst College (see photo number 1 – St. Mary’s Hall). During his numerous visits, J.R.R. Tolkien stayed at a guest house in the grounds belonging to Stonyhurst College (see photo number 2 – J.R.R. Tolkien’s signature in the Stonyhurst College visitors’ book. J.R.R. Tolkien’s name appears many times in this book, along with that of his wife, daughter and sons between 1942 - 1947). The house, New Lodge (see photo number 3 – New Lodge as it is today), was sketched by J.R.R. Tolkien (see photo number 4) during one of his last stays and he wrote a personal note on the reverse to the family who ran the guest house (see photo number 5). The topographical picture, from August 1947, is a view of the garden at New Lodge looking towards the back of the house. In the right foreground runner beans are in full flower, their colour echoed by the chimney pots. Did J.R.R. Tolkien , when drawing this scene, bring to mind Frodo’s view from Tom Bombadil’s house in The Lord of the Rings (book 1, chapter 7)?

"Frodo ran to the eastern window, and found himself looking into a kitchen- garden grey with dew……his view was screened by a tall line of beans on poles; but above and far beyond the grey top of the hill loomed up against the sunrise.

(see photo 6 – view of Pendle Hill from Stonyhurst) The sky spoke of rain to come; but the light was broadening quickly, and the red flowers on the beans began to glow against the wet green leaves."

J.R.R. Tolkien was renowned for his love of nature and wooded landscapes, and the countryside around Stonyhurst College and St. Mary’s Hall is richly beautiful (see photos 7 & 8). The area is dotted with names that are familiar from The Lord of the Rings – Shire Lane in Hurst Green, for instance, or the River Shirebourn. Perhaps named after the Shireburn Family who had built Stonyhurst and owned the estate in the 16th and 17th centuries. The green countryside is dominated by the dark shape of Pendle Hill, famous for its association with witches, sorcery and black magic in the 16th century – surely inspiration for Middle Earth’s Misty Mountains or The Lonely Mountain?

In a classroom on the upper gallery at Stonyhurst College (see photo number 9), J.R.R. Tolkien found time to write part of The Lord of the Rings. When not writing, J.R.R. Tolkien would take walks with his son. As a professor at Oxford, J.R.R. Tolkien even taught a few lessons at Stonyhurst College during his stay.

The Tolkien family link with Stonyhurst College does not end there. Another of J.R.R. Tolkien’s sons, Michael, taught classics at Stonyhurst College and St. Mary’s Hall in the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s. J.R.R. Tolkien returned to Stonyhurst towards the end of his life to stay with his son in another house belonging to Stonyhurst College, a few hundred yards from St. Mary’s Hall, in Woodfields (see photo number 10). J.R.R. Tolkien’s love of trees continued throughout his lift and he persuaded his son, Michael, to plant a copse in the garden, evidence of which can still be seen today.

With the imminent birth of the new Tolkien Library / study centre at St. Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, J.R.R. Tolkien’s connection with Lancashire’s Ribble Valley will live long for future generations.