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Here he had several friends and Ronald was fascinated by the striking landscape. It was on one such holiday that Fr Francis discovered the true feelings of the boys regarding their life at Stirling Road. Though he continued to give funds to Beatrice Suffield from time to time, even after the boys left, in the summer of , Fr.
Francis decided a change of lodging was in order for year-old Ronald and year-old Hilary. She was already well known to some of the Fathers from the musical evenings she held. The household included the family, a maid and another lodger, year-old Edith Mary Bratt see the featured illustration , who had the bedroom directly beneath that of the boys.
This was at a time when such things still mattered, and mattered greatly. There, she could raise her daughter with the help of a cousin, Jenny Grove. In that environment, Edith had become a pianist in her own right. Sadly, Frances died while her daughter was still in her teens. The executor decided that lodging with Mrs Faulkner would be the best temporary solution for Edith. Especially as Mrs Faulkner appears to have been a rather strict and stern landlady. Much less expected was the degree of warm personal friendship attraction and affection that developed between the effervescent, playful, older Edith and the shy, bookish, younger Ronald.
They must have visited the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which had just released a world-renowned collection of works for public viewing. Tolkien haunted the place, and was particularly fascinated by its collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. Ronald and Edith also visited tea shops; one with a balcony overlooking the pavement was a particular favorite. They would sit and throw sugar lumps into the hats of passers-by, moving to the next table when the sugar bowl was empty. By now, he and Edith were a couple, if a rather clandestine one. The magical memories of Rednal and the Lickey Hills reasserted their charm.
The young couple made visits there together. She told the Oratory cook at Edgbaston, who, in turn, told Fr Francis. Francis knew that the only way that Tolkien could go to university, was as a scholarship student. He was determined that Ronald would spend all, or nearly all, of his time at his studies.
He ordered an immediate cessation of their spending any further time together until Ronald reached the age of consent, then twenty-one. Fr Francis had become almost a substitute father to the boys. Fr Francis found alternative accommodation for the brothers with the McSherry family. They were Catholic parishioners who lived near the Oratory in Highfield Road south of the places depicted on the map.
In March Edith accepted an invitation to move to new lodgings in Cheltenham. This put her relationship in suspense — for a while. There were still occasional brief exchanges. Yet, Edith was never far from his heart or his thoughts, and he longed desperately to see her again. The Tolkien brothers also reconciled with their extended family, often getting together with them at Christmas — including one year when Ronald wrote a Christmas play and had them all perform in it. Beacon Hill was not far from his usual haunts.
It was nearly feet above sea level, and a al could be seen as far away Dudley and the Black Country, Bardon Hill in Leicestershire and westward as far as Wales. It had intermittently been used as a place to al the surrounding areas, either with al fires or with more sophisticated beacons, from through the 19th Century and would be so again during World War II.
In conjunction with places in the Lickey Hills carrying the al further, one cannot visit Beacon Hill and not see it as the site that inspired Minas Tirith. There is a castle-like toposcope at the crest of Beacon Hill. The one standing there now was rebuilt in the s. But the water tower at Hollymoor hospital is only a short ways down Beacon Hill. It can easily seen looking downhill from the crest. It was built in Hollymoor was also commandeered as an army hospital during the First World War. Tolkien came down with trench fever on 27 October , during the Battle of the Somme.
He was shipped home to be treated he never fully recovered. He may well have spent time at Hollymoor, during treatment or convalescence. Look up ward at it from the grounds near the tower, look down on it from the crest of Beacon Hill. And at the start of , on the eve of his 21st birthday, Tolkien wrote to Edith from Barnt Green, pouring out his love for her asking her to marry him. She replied that she was already engaged to someone else. However she did agree to meet him at the train station in Cheltenham.
Under an aqueduct near the station, Tolkien talked Edith into breaking off her engagement and returning her ring. He then proposed to her a second time and won her consent. They were married in , with the cheerful blessing of Fr. They had a son in , whom they named John Francis.
Ronald, Edith and their children would often spend some vacation time in Lyme Regis with Fr. One day in , Tolkien was still in the army. He was given home service and was stationed at Thirtle Bridge, East Yorkshire. He and Edith went walking in the woods at nearby Roos, and Edith began to dance for him in a thick grove of hemlock.
But the story has gone crooked, and I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos. Birmingham was no more the inspiration for every part of Middle Earth than Edith was the inspiration for all the female characters. But there can be no doubt that both Birmingham and Edith were muses that spurred and inspired Tolkien ever onward. At the same time, they also kept him grounded in ways less easy to perceive, even today. As academic and biographer George Sayer put it:. Look for my new novel The Bluebottle Boys, out this autumn.
And look for a new — and more lighthearted — series here in July on The Iron Stone. Tolkien was hardly idle after the separation. No matter how eloquent Tolkien was in his writings, or in the arguments he used for converting C. Lewis from atheism to Christianity, the day he met Edith in Cheltenham must have been the most eloquent day of his his life.
The following two tabs change content below. Bio Latest Posts. He blogs principally on the s, Victoriana and magic realism. Latest posts by G. McCallum see all.Looking for friends maybe more 37 Lickey 37
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