Tolkien's Gedling, 1914: The Birth Of A Legend, a book about Jane Neave and Phoenix Farm (13.04.08 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

In John Garth's Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth we can read that Tolkien, at Phoenix Farm (on 24 September 1914), wrote with startling éclat:

Éarendel sprang up from the Ocean's cup
In the gloom of the mid-world's rim;
From the door of Night as a ray of light
Leapt over the twilight brim,
And launching his bark like a silver spark
From the golden-fading sand
Down the sunlit breath of Day's fiery Death
He sped from Westerland


In 1914 Tolkien stayed at his Aunt's farm, called Phoenix Farm, in Gedling. While the farm has now been demolished, it is said that it was there that Tolkien wrote this poem that in the end led to the Lord Of The Ring

In the Addenda and Corrigenda to The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide by Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond I read a note on concerning Jane Neave:

"In January 2007, we were contacted by Andrew H. Morton, who had become interested in Jane Neave because of their shared connections with Gedling, and were asked for information about her relationship with the Brookes-Smith family. We told Andrew what we knew and suggested leads he might follow. He eventually uncovered a great deal of new material, and even made contact with Colin Brookes-Smith’s daughter.
In his enquiries to St Andrews, he was luckier than we: we had been told that no evidence could be found to confirm that Jane Neave had been warden of a college there, but Andrew was sent details of the period from summer 1909 to the end of 1911, when Jane was Lady Warden of University Hall. (Perhaps the archives have been more thoroughly catalogued or digitized in the five years since we wrote to St Andrews, or a different staff member was willing to search more thoroughly.) Andrew and his companion researcher, John Hayes, plan to publish at least one book on Jane Neave, who turns out to have been even more remarkable than we had known."

This book has now been published! It is called Tolkien's Gedling 1914: The Birth Of A Legend.

- Paperback
- Publisher: Brewin Books
- ISBN-10: 185858423X
- ISBN-13: 978-1858584232

As a child in the 1950s, Andrew Morton played on the land a literary legend grew from. The fields around Gedling were home to Phoenix Farm, where JRR Tolkien created the poem some say led to the Lord Of The Rings. Years later, after discovering the author's link to Gedling, Andrew started to research the history of Phoenix Farm - and the result of his work is a new book, Tolkien's Gedling 1914: The Birth Of A Legend.

The 57-year-old father-of-three, who has lived in Gedling and Mapperley, now works as a teacher in Birmingham - considered Tolkien's hometown since the author's family moved there when he was three. Two years ago, Andrew discovered that Tolkien had written The Voyage Of Earendel The Evening Star while staying with his aunt, Jane Neave, at Phoenix Farm in 1914.

He said: "I was surprised to find he wrote his first poem in Gedling. It is just 200 yards down the road from where I used to live. It is an extremely significant poem. This one led to the rest of his writing."

Phoenix Farm was demolished and turned into a Coal Board estate in 1953, but John and his research team managed to get hold of several pictures of the site - and they found out plenty about Jane Neave, who ran the farm and was said to be highly influential on her nephew.

Andrew said: "Jane Neave is really the key, a lot of people think she was the model for the wizard Gandalf in Lord Of The Rings. I researched her more than anyone has done and she was an extraordinary person."

This sounds like a very interesting book. Hope to have a review of this book ready real soon!

A small side note, I remember an interview I did with Dr. Alison Milbank author of Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians who lived in the tiny cathedral town of Southwell in Sherwood Forest. He is a curate in the village of Lambley, which adjoins Phoenix Farm, where Tolkien stayed with his aunt when she was a tenant farmer in Nottinghamshire. It is a pretty hobbitish area, with a very tucked-away feel to it. It seems more authors from this area are into writing Tolkien books!

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