Thursday 9 July 2015

Tolkien's Hemlock Glade, Part 4

A Hemlock Glade, The Houses of Healing, Two Towers and a Beacon: Tolkien in East Yorkshire, Part 4: Brooklands Officers' Hospital and the Godwin Battery

Please note the text explaining the latest findings about Tolkien and Brooklands and Kilnsea may be read in my essay ‘Tolkien in East Yorkshire’ published in Something Has Gone Crack edited by Janet Brennan Croft & Annika Röttinger.

Note: Tolkien was hospitalised many times during the period of the First World War.  This article is purely concerned with the two hospitals, or Houses of Healing in the East Riding.
The Dennison Centre, University of Hull in 1914.  In late July 1917 it became Brooklands Officers' Hospital
The Houses of Healing

Margaret Strickland Constable (1873-1961).  She was the commandant in charge of Brooklands, during Tolkien's  recuperation.  This photo was taken several years before World War One

The rear of Brooklands showing the extensive lawn

Detail from the 1910 Ordnance Survey showing Brooklands and the neighbouring property the Cedars

1910 OS map showing open fields on the opposite side of Cottingham Road to Brooklands

The west side of Brooklands.  It is believed that the hospital beds of officers were at this side of the building

There are two short descriptive passages of the environs of the Houses of Healing in The Lord of the Rings. In the first Gandalf escorts the bier of Faramir to them for treatment, where we are informed: 

            about them was a garden and greensward with trees, the only such place in the
                  City.  There dwelt the few women that had been permitted to remain in Minas
                  Tirith, since they were skilled in healing or in the service of the healers. (48.5)

In Brooklands hopefully there were also nursing staff who were skilled in the service of the healers!  Yes, Brooklands also had a greensward, or a lawn, as we would call it, and trees.  In the second extract Merry, Pippin, Legolas and Gimli are discussing their adventures after the Battle of the Pelennor:
               For a while they walked and talked, rejoicing for a brief space in peace and rest
               under the morning high up in the windy circles of the City. Then when Merry
               became weary, they went and sat upon the greensward of the Houses of Healing
               behind them; and away southward before them was the Anduin glittering in
               the sun, as it flowed away, out of the sight even of Legolas, into the wide flats and
               green haze of Lebennin and South Ithilien. (49)
Hull is renowned by its students as a windy city, but not because of its altitude.  When the wind is from the east it blows straight from the cold continent and seems to penetrate every corner.  In relation to Brooklands the Humber does flow to the southward, and it does widen as it reaches the wide flats of Sunk Island and South Holderness, but because Hull is so flat the Humber cannot be glimpsed from Brooklands, and its alluvial nature means it does not often glitter unless the light is just right in relation to the viewer!  The Anduin flows west to the sea, but the Humber flows eastwards.

Godwin Battery, Kilnsea
Plan of Godwin Battery from the book Guardians of the Humber.  The hospital is at the top, marked with an arrow & H

An aerial photograph of Godwin Battery, taken on 15 August 1918

Plaques on the side of the Blue Bell, Kilnsea - illustrating the destructive power of the sea

Kilnsea Old Church shortly before being lost to the sea
The old medieval cross before removal from the coast

1906 - after severe flooding - a view across the fields.  Kilnsea Beacon is visible on the horizon

Godwin Battery in 1964.  The observation towers and gun emplacements are still readily visible.  It seems bizarre that many of the original battery features are present at the same time as holiday caravans
2015 - the gun emplacements now lie on the beach - only visible at low tide
 This was the sea wall in Tolkien's time - now it is only fully visible at the lowest of low tides

The Kilnsea Beacon from the 1830s
 Kilnsea Beacon - this was present in Tolkien's time
Photo kindly supplied by Jan Crowther

Kilnsea Acoustic Sound Mirror
 Kilnsea Acoustic Sound Mirror.  Note metal post in front of the dish, which would have held the microphone.  Cracks seem to have been filled with cement
After I gave this piece as a talk in Leeds on 4th July 2015, Irina Metzler, one of the delegates, explained that correspondences could be drawn between the Beacon, and Acoustic Mirror at Kilnsea and Tolkien’s Amon Hen and Amon Lhaw. She pointed out that the Acoustic Mirror is very ear-like and was obviously designed to hear approaching aircraft, whilst the beacon was originally placed on a high point and was meant to be seen from afar.  Of course in The Lord of the Rings Amon Hen is the Hill of Listening and Amon Lhaw is the nearby Hill of Seeing. As with so many things in Tolkien if indeed he did have these two nearby structures as an inspiration they were utterly transformed in his fiction.  This is another matter I am going to have to give further consideration.

You may read Part 1 (Introduction & Hornsea) here
You may read Part 2 (Roos and Halsham) here
You may read Part 3 (Thirtle Bridge & Withernsea) here
You may read part 5 (Easington & Spurn Point) here

My thanks to  Jan Crowther, John Garth, Irina Metzler, and Phil Mathison with whom I was able to consult on various aspects of my research while I was writing this paper.

45. Hull Daily Mail, 1 Aug 1917, p.2.
46. Ibid.
47. Garth, p.239. 
48. Margaret Chichester-Constable, Diaries, The Treasure House
48.5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 60th Anniversary Edition, ‘The Pyre of Denethor’, p.855.
49. Ibid, ‘The Last Debate’, p.873.
50. Chichester-Constable, Diaries,
51. Hull Daily Mail, 12 Oct 1918, p.2.
52. Mathison, p.90.
53. Letters, 5 Jun 1955 to W.H. Auden, p.213. 
54 Crowther, Jan, The People Along the Sand: The Spurn Peninsula & Kilnsea, A History, 1800-2000, Andover: Phillimore, p.176, plate 3.
55. Ibid, plate 1. 
56. Ibid, plate 12.
57. Letters, 5 Jun 1955 to W.H. Auden, p.213.
58. Hammond & Scull, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, p.509.
59. Crowther, p.136.
60. Crowther, p.88..


Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a great deal of important detail. For further information on the operation of the Acoustic Mirror please see

Oyster Logistics and Removals said...

Nice and informative post. Thanks for sharing your information. House Removals Chichester