I haven't had chance to post about Tolkien's time in East Yorkshire recently. This is mainly because it's been such a hectic Autumn with many venues having to be changed at short notice because of the poor weather conditions.
A sign placed on Brooklands Officers' Hospital after WW1
However, this all changed yesterday with a new connection being brought to my attention, about the period just after Tolkien's convalescence. Phil Mathison, author of Tolkien in East Yorkshire, acting on a tip-off let me know that there may be a plaque concerning Brooklands Officers' hospital in Hedon Museum. The museum is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so yesterday because it was half-term was my chance. I asked the elderly gentleman on the desk, and luckily, he vaguely remembered something and took me to a neglected corner of the museum. I asked him if it would be possible to photograph it. I was allowed to carefully place the plaque somewhere where it could be photographed more easily. There was an accompanying text, which I also photographed. A few minutes later the custodian shuffled apologetically towards me, and informed me that there would be a charge for photography. I was relieved, as I thought he was going to ask me to delete the photos. Luckily, it was only a nominal amount.
Photograph of the text in Hedon Museum accompanying Phil Mathison's photo of the Dennison Centre, formerly Brooklands
As you may see from the photo of this plaque at the top of the blog, this must have been added to the exterior of the building after the war when the temporary hospital was returned to its original role as a private residence. The dates may just indicate the period of "The Great War", but they also imply that this was the exact period when the building was utilised as a hospital. This would be an incorrect assumption to make. Brooklands Officers' Hospital only officially opened for patients on 31 July 1917, with Tolkien being admitted a fortnight later. This building is important for Tolkien's development as a writer as he wrote the first version of 'The Tale of Tinúviel' here which he referred to as the "kernel" of his mythology, and which was to exercise his imagination for the following half a century. On 1 June this year Beren and Lúthien was published, which included the earliest-surviving text of 'The Tale of Tinúviel'.
The front of the Dennison Centre - October 2017
Tolkien is also believed to have written the first version of 'The Tale of Turumbar' at Brooklands, which found its ultimate expression as The Children of Húrin, published in 2006. Tolkien spent nearly 22 weeks here over 2 summers, which also allowed him plenty of time to work on his grammars and vocabulary of his languages, which at that time was known as Goldogrin.
Art nouveau glass in the hospital area
Did the talented amateur artist ever draw designs similar to these?
A conservatory existed in 1917, as can be seen in the 1910 OS maps
You may read more about Tolkien's time at Brooklands here.
On 21 October 2017 the University of Hull held a Tolkien Centenary Day at the Dennison Centre, which is the new name for what was Brooklands Officers' Hospital in 2017. I had the honour of giving a talk on Tolkien at my old alma mater a fortnight ago.
One of the slides from Dr Wall's talk 'Tolkien, Trench Fever and the Treasure House'
The day started with an introduction by Dr Rosemary Wall, who talked about Tolkien's time at the hospital and put Tolkien's illness (Trench Fever) and his treatment into its historical context. I followed at 10.35 when I concentrated on the major work inspired at nearby Roos, and initially written in East Yorkshire: The Story of Beren and Lúthien.
The deluxe [left] and standard hardbacks of Beren and Lúthien in Roos churchyard on publication day 1 June 2017. 100 years after Edith Tolkien danced for her husband in the same location
After a refreshment break the first and arguably still the leading Tolkien scholar in the world, Professor Tom Shippey, (Emeritus Professor of Saint Louis University) gave a fascinating paper in his inimitable style.
Professor Tom Shippey giving his paper
After lunch came a complete change of direction with a light-hearted World War One First Aid Demonstration under the auspices of Dr Wall, followed by a presentation by their modern equivalents.
A willing victim being bandaged WW1 style
The Tolkien speeches were brought to a close by Newcastle artist Jay Johnstone who talked about 'Tolkien: Not for the faint 'arted'. A selection of some of his artworks were on display in the lecture room.
Jay Johnstone giving his talk
The day also featured a book stall where Phil Mathison sold copies of his book Tolkien in East Yorkshire, and signed copies for the buyers. Children's crafts took place in another room, which included Elvish calligraphy. There were also some intriguing banners of sites around Roos in a corridor, which may have inspired Tolkien.
The rear of the Dennison Centre
Tunstall Hall facing west
Finally, some photographs of an East Yorkshire location, which I should have included months, if not years ago. Tunstall Hall was the scene of the 3rd Lancashire Fusiliers regimental headquarters at the time Tolkien was in the area, but it is also known that officers' quarters also existed on the site. It is now the location of a luxury leisure park called Sand Le Mere Holiday Village. Although it is possible to access the site without a problem, it does feel as though you may be invading people's privacy, so I only made a couple of quick visits, when I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.
Tunstall Hall - the most impressive entrance
A barn at Tunstall Hall
A few old buildings remain, which would have been present when Tolkien visited his HQ. Large areas of the caravan park are currently covered with luxurious lodges, which aren't too dissimilar in shape and size from the temporary First World War huts, which would have been in place in 1917 and 1918. It isn't known if Tolkien ever had accommodation at Tunstall, but as an officer he would almost certainly have had meetings with his superiors, and he may have even attended some of the many evening entertainments performed on site.
Tunstall Hall Lodge?
Modern lodges at the Sand-le-Mere Caravan Park. Not too dissimilar from WW1 huts!
The Rear of Tunstall Hall