Headington history: People

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J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973)

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in the Orange Free State in 1892, but his widowed mother brought him back to Birmingham as a child.

He went up to Exeter College, Oxford in 1910, and returned to Oxford briefly after the First World War to work for the Oxford English Dictionary, and then took up an academic appointment at the University of Leeds. In 1937 he wrote The Hobbit.

In 1945 Tolkien came back to Oxford when he was appointed to the Merton Chair of English language and literature, which he held until his retirement in 1959. He lived at 20 Northmoor Road from 1945 to 1953, and then moved into 76 Sandfield Road, Headington (below), where he lived from 1953 to 1968.

76 Sandfield Road

Tolkien worked in the garage on the left of this photograph, and over its door there is this inscribed Portland stone plaque, which was carved in the 1970s by Bill Brown of Kidlington for the then owner, Mr Phillips.

Tolkien inscription

The following books in the Lord of the Rings series were published while Tolkien lived in this house:

  • The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
  • The Two Towers (1954)
  • The Return of the King (1955)

In 1968, the attentions of the fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at his Sandfield Road home drove Tolkien to flee from Headington to Bournemouth, where he remained until his death in 1973.

Tolkien was a Roman Catholic and worshipped at St Anthony of Padua Church in Headley Way, and a requiem mass was held for him there on 6 September 1973.

Websites about Tolkien:

There is a much fuller entry on J. R. R. Tolkien in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The ODNB online is available free to many public library users, including those in Oxfordshire:
enter L followed immediately by your library ticket number in the “Library Card Login” box

Wikipedia: J. R. R. Tolkien

© Stephanie Jenkins

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