Extracts from Email of the Month for October and November 2004
The fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the completed Lord of the Rings saga is hard upon us, and while time has been kind to Tolkien's novel, time is wearing hard on many of the sites associated with Tolkien's personal history.
Andrew Townsend, who has been a featured correspondent in this column, recently brought my attention to the plight of one of these sites:
“While we were in Dorset, I went to look at the Three Cups hotel in Lyme Regis where Tolkien stayed on a number of occasions [vacationing as a youth with his brother Hilary and Father Francis]. Sadly, it has fallen into disuse. I have emailed the Tolkien society and been advised that the matter will be passed on to the committee! I'll let you know what they come up with. I would like to suggest that you and your Tolkien contacts write in protest but I can't find a website where you can do so.
Thankfully, the building is "Listed" which means that it would be illegal to demolish it, and a change of use would require planning permission. However, 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 delay its return to use unduly saying they are waiting for coastal defenses to be upgraded
• the owner may seek a change of use which would deny access to the general public
• 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.)
In addition to the Tolkien connection, the hotel was featured in the film The French Lieutenant's Woman and, prior to 1844 when it was on the site of the Sanctuary Bookshop, was mentioned in one of Jane Austen's novels.
Why is this at all important? Humphrey Carpenter suggests in Tolkien's biography that the Dorset countryside provided at least some of the landscape for Middle-earth. I would like to think that the Shire is a mixture of Dorset, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Lancashire.”
Hollywood Jesus, Andrew and the local press in Lyme Regis will be working with Bob Speer and others to bring a global focus to this preservation effort. Check back again as we add more information and links as the month progresses.