Town’s sta­tion played big part in love story

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA -

THE phrase “Aiya vorondo al­cary­atar. Elen sila lu­menn’ omen­tielvo”, which as I’m sure you know, means “Hail trust­wor­thy and glo­ri­ous one. A star shines on the hour of our meet­ing” in Quenya.

This Elfin lan­guage was de­vised along with oth­ers, by J R R Tolkien, au­thor of The Hob­bit and the Lord of the Rings tril­ogy.

In 1916 John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) mar­ried his child­hood sweet­heart Edith Bratt who was born in Glouces­ter and lived in Chel­tenham. They didn’t have an easy courtship. Both were or­phans and found them­selves liv­ing in the same board­ing house in Handsworth, Birm­ing­ham when he was 16 and she was 19.

Tolkien was Ro­man Catholic, Edith wasn’t and his guardian, who was a priest, for­bade Tolkien from as­so­ci­at­ing with a Protes­tant.

De­spite this bar­rier, the two young peo­ple man­aged to en­gi­neer time to­gether, when they got up to high jinks of the kind de­scribed by Tolkien’s bi­og­ra­pher Humphrey Car­pen­ter.

“Edith and Ronald took to fre­quent­ing Birm­ing­ham teashops, es­pe­cially one which had a bal­cony over­look­ing the pave­ment. There they would sit and throw sugar lumps into the hats of passers-by.”

The road to true love didn’t run smooth for our star crossed lovers, but they em­barked upon it – on bikes.

Tolkien’s spoil-sport guardian couldn’t com­plain about his charge fre­quent­ing with the girl who lived up­stairs when the two were chap­er­oned by umpteen mem­bers of their cy­cling club. Con­se­quently JRRT and Edith cy­cled their way to ro­mance.

How­ever, a fur­ther blow was dealt to

their re­la­tion­ship when Edith was ban­ished to Chel­tenham where she took up lodg­ings with a re­tired so­lic­i­tor and his wife.

On his 21st birth­day Tolkien was free of his per­nick­ety priest and wrote a let­ter to Edith, declar­ing his love and ask­ing her to marry him.

The re­ply must have come as a shock as Edith, in­set, ex­plained by re­turn post that she was en­gaged to some­one else.

She must, though, still have har­boured af­fec­tion for him as she agreed to meet Tolkien at the rail­way sta­tion in Chel­tenham.

There were at least half a dozen sta­tions in Chel­tenham at that time, but as he was com­ing from Birm­ing­ham their assig­na­tion must have been ei­ther on the plat­form at Lans­down, or St James’s sta­tion.

While in Chel­tenham JRR stayed at the Moorend Park Ho­tel, which stood on ground now oc­cu­pied by the Pine­trees es­tate, off Moorend Road in Charl­ton Kings.

At that time a weekly news­pa­per called the Chel­tenham Looker-on pub­lished a list of vis­i­tors to the town. Re­pro­duced here is the en­try pub­lished on Jan­uary 11, 1913.

One of Chel­tenham’s most re­mark­able build­ings, the Moorend Park Ho­tel was built be­tween 1835 and 1840 by a Birm­ing­ham busi­ness­man named Frind Cre­goe Col­more to a de­sign by John Buonarotti Pap­worth.

Pap­worth was the ar­chi­tect who was also re­spon­si­ble for the ro­tunda seen to­day atop The Ivy restau­rant in Mont­pel­lier.

It looked like a grand, Bavar­ian hunt­ing lodge and be­came a ho­tel in the 1920s. Sadly, the build­ing was de­mol­ished in 1979.

But back to Edith and JRR. Happily, love con­quered all. How could it do oth­er­wise for two peo­ple who had once thrown sugar lumps at in­no­cent passers by with­out provo­ca­tion of any kind? They were mar­ried for 56 years.

In 1929 JRR Tolkien took part in an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion, un­der the direc­tion of Sir Mor­timer Wheeler, of the Ro­man tem­ple in the grounds of Lyd­ney Park.

The area in which the dig took place is the site of an Iron Age set­tle­ment and rid­dled with tun­nels, open cast iron mines and an­cient cu­riosi­ties.

Lo­cal folk le­gends as­so­ci­ate the site with elves, hob­gob­lins, mytho­log­i­cal fig­ures, for­got­ten gods, heroic char­ac­ters and a host of su­per­sti­tions, which Tolkien must have learned about.

The Ro­man Tem­ple was ded­i­cated to the God No­den, a de­ity also known as Lord of the Mines – surely a ti­tle close enough to the name of Tolkien’s tril­ogy to raise an en­quir­ing eye­brow?

The truth will prob­a­bly never be known, but it could be that Tolkien’s time in Lyd­ney sowed the seeds for his epic work.

And Mr and Mrs Tolkien prob­a­bly al­ways had a soft spot for their brief en­counter on the plat­form of a Chel­tenham rail­way sta­tion.

Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins play JRR and Edith Tolkien in the re­cently-re­leased film about the cou­ple

Tolkien stayed at the Moorend Park Ho­tel

The Ro­man tem­ple at Lyd­ney

JRR Tolkien

Tolkien’s visit is recorded in the Chel­tenham Looker-on in Jan­uary 1913

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