From tales of Mid­dle Earth to a sin­gle storey in Dorset

You won’t see hob­bits – or even a gnome – in J R R Tolkien’s bun­ga­low. Ross Clark re­ports

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Write Stuff -

Mid­dle Earth and 19 Lake­side Road, Brank­some Park, Poole, are about as far re­moved from each other as it is pos­si­ble to imag­ine. The for­mer is an ex­otic land of lofty peaks and sty­gian canyons in­hab­ited by elves, trolls and wiz­ards. The lat­ter is a drab, 1960s, sub­ur­ban bun­ga­low with stone cladding and a dou­ble garage. The con­nec­tion is JRRTolkien, au­thor of The Lord of the Rings, who bought the bun­ga­low as a re­tire­ment home in 1968.

Ac­cord­ing to Humphrey Car­pen­ter’s bi­og­ra­phy, Tolkien was re­luc­tant to give up high ta­ble at Ox­ford to move to Poole, but did so to please his less aca­demic and in­creas­ingly dis­abled wife, Edith. She loved the re­sort, hav­ing fre­quently come to stay at the nearby Mi­ra­mar Ho­tel while he was away on busi­ness. While she set­tled en­thu­si­as­ti­cally into the so­cial cir­cle of wealthy re­tired folk and en­joyed walk­ing to the beach from the back gate of the bun­ga­low, Tolkien wrote to his son, Christo­pher, of his frus­tra­tions with his new life: “I fed quite well. And yet; and yet. I see no men of my own kind.”

Still, Tolkien made the most of life in Poole, spend­ing much time in the spare bed­room work­ing on The Sil­mar­il­lion, a book he had be­gun in 1917 but which was not pub­lished un­til 1977, four years af­ter his death. He turned the garage into a li­brary and re­ceived friends and col­leagues; though not, thank­fully, WH Au­den, who, in a pub­lic lec­ture, de­scribed Tolkien’s pre­vi­ous house in Ox­ford as ‘‘hideous’’, and may well have been even less po­lite about the Poole bun­ga­low.

When Edith died in 1971, Tolkien lost lit­tle time in sell­ing up and mov­ing back to Ox­ford. The buyer was Woolf Frankel, a gear­box en­gi­neer for Vaux­hall cars, and his wife, Rose. Their son, Stephen, re­calls: “My fa­ther and I had been look­ing for a hol­i­day home in Poole. He phoned to say he had found a bun­ga­low which be­longed to JRRTolkien. I said it doesn’t mat­ter who it be­longs to; if it’s nice, let’s buy it.”

The Frankels paid £23,000, plus an ex­tra £1,000 for the Adamstyle fire­place and cor­ner unit. Al­though Tolkien lived at Lake­side Road for only three years,

his time there has left its mark. “Peo­ple are al­ways driv­ing by or knock­ing on the door,” says Stephen. “One day I was do­ing some re­fur­bish­ment, works which in­volved knock­ing down a wall. Some Amer­i­can Tolkien fans turned up. They spent half a day with us, and took some bricks home with them. When they got home they sent us pho­to­graphs of their cars, with hob­bits on them. I’ve still got the car­pets and cur­tains which were here in Tolkien’s day. I sup­pose I could cut them up and sell them on the in­ter­net, but I think that would be a bit greedy.”

Stephen says he has al­ready re­ceived an of­fer of £1 mil­lion for the bun­ga­low from his builder — which would al­most cer­tainly mean the prop­erty suf­fer­ing the fate of most bun­ga­lows in this ex­tremely wealthy part of Poole: be­ing de­mol­ished and re­placed with a man­sion. “But it would be lovely if we could find a Tolkien fan to take on the prop­erty and treat it as I have done.”

Richard Farnes, of Goadsby es­tate agency, which is sell­ing 19 Lake­side Road, for which of­fers over £1 mil­lion are in­vited, is feel­ing pretty bullish: “We are an­tic­i­pat­ing a high level of in­ter­est from Tolkien’s fans.” But the sale of the prop­erty does pose the ques­tion: does a his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tion of this kind re­ally boost the value of a home, and just how firm does the con­nec­tion have to be? It is hardly as if there is a short­age of homes in­hab­ited by fa­mous au­thors, or even a short­age of homes in­hab­ited by Tolkien, who was a se­rial house­mover.

Two years ago Tolkien’s main Ox­ford res­i­dence, 20 North­moor Road, where he lived be­tween 1930 and 1947, was put on the mar­ket for £1.5 mil­lion, and at­tracted in­ter­est from all over the world. The pub­lic­ity drove the then own­ers to dis­trac­tion: they likened the tourists who stuck their heads over the hedge to the Hob­bits from Mid­dle Earth.

The house sold for £1.6 mil­lion — £100,000 more than the ask­ing price, but not as much the £1.77 mil­lion fetched by a sim­i­lar house across the road six months ear­lier.

If you are a Tolkien fan and you missed out on 20 North­moor Road, you could al­ways wait for num­ber 22 to come on the mar­ket: the Tolkiens also lived there briefly, be­fore seek­ing more room for his grow­ing fam­ily next door.

Other houses in Ox­ford in­hab­ited by the Tolkiens are 50 St John’s Street, 1 Pusey Street and 11 Mark’s Ter­race, where they moved early in their mar­riage. They also lived at 3 Manor Road af­ter their chil­dren had left home, then 99 Holy­well, where he moved next, fol­lowed by 76 Sand­field Road, the sub­ur­ban prop­erty in Head­ing­ton scorned by WHAu­den. Fi­nally, there is 21 Mer­ton Street where Tolkien lived for the 18 months be­fore his death in 1973.

The Tolkien prop­erty lad­der would be enough to keep tourists oc­cu­pied on an hour-long coach tour of Ox­ford; but his as­sort­ment of pleas­ant if plain sub­ur­ban houses does noth­ing to ex­plain his vivid imag­i­na­tion other than, per­haps, to sug­gest that if your mind is in Mid­dle Earth, you don’t need a great ar­chi­tec­tural project to ex­press your creative side.

Goadsby es­tate agency: 01202 701616; www.goadsby.com

Writer’s camp: JRR Tolkien (left) and, be­low, the sit­ting room of the au­thor’s Poole home (above), con­tain­ing many of his orig­i­nal fit­tings

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