“Tolkien Hotel is Worldwide News” by Sarah Thompson
The derelict state of the Three Cups Hotel in Lyme Regis has become international news thanks to an American website devoted to Hollywood films. A message about the historic town centre hotel, which has stood empty for 14 years, is the email of the month on www.hollywoodjesus.com - a popular US website that reviews movies and explores the deeper meanings behind contemporary pop culture. The email is from Andrew Townsend, a civil engineer from Manchester and member of the Tolkien Society who visited Lyme Regis recently. It registers his disgust at the abandonment of the building, and talks about the fact that JRR Tolkien (who wrote the Lord of the Rings – now a blockbuster movie trilogy) stayed at the Three Cups on a number of occasions. (Tolkien even painted a picture, dated 1906, entitled Lyme Regis Harbour from the Drawing Room Window of the Cups Hotel).
In his email Mr Townsend says: “There are several areas of concern to Tolkien fans. The building will deteriorate while not in use and is in danger of vandalism, the owner may seek a change of use which would deny access to the general public and in its current state the public cannot enjoy visiting a site of great historical and cultural interest.
(Notwithstanding all that, for the people of Lyme Regis the building looks very sad in its current state and detracts from the beauty of the town, rather like one of the empty houses in the winding streets of Minas Tirith.)”
Mr Townsend said research had shown that it was likely Tolkien had used the countryside near Lyme for inspiration when writing about the Shire- where the hobbits live – in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He said that the author Humphrey Carpenter suggests in his biography of Tolkien that the Dorset countryside provided at least some of the landscape for middle-earth, where much of the trilogy is set. Editor of HollwoodJesus, Greg Wright, who is a leading author and reference on Tolkien, said the Three Cups was important to lovers of Tolkien because it enabled people to further understand Tolkien’s own imagination. He said Mr Townsend’s message had been highlighted because it dealt with an issue Tolkien himself would have cared about - that of caring properly for our links with the past.
Mr Townsend said he had contacted the Tolkien Society, who would be discussing the Three Cups at their next committee meeting and urged anyone concerned about the future of the hotel to write to the district council’s listed buildings officer.