Opening 6th March 2016, the Cannock Chase Museum exhibition J.R.R. Tolkien & Staffordshire 1915-1918: A Literary Landscape surveys the influence of the middle part of Staffordshire on Tolkien…

“The Great War years were a formative period in the development of Tolkien’s work on the mythology, languages, history and geography of what would become middle-earth. References in some of his writings relate to Staffordshire: Great Haywood, Shugborough Hall, Gypsy Green near Penkridge and Cannock Chase. Influences can be traced in his creative work, in particular his contemporary poetry and also The Book of Lost Tales, which was a forerunner to The Silmarillion.”

In his later years he also had a connection with North Staffordshire. Being an Oxford lecturer, from the mid 1950s through to the 1970s he spent many of his long academic holidays with his son — who lived at 104 Hartshill Road, at the top end of Stoke town in Stoke-on-Trent. Fascinating to imagine that Tolkien might have been quite familiar with alighting from the Oxford train at Stoke station (there’s still a direct two hour service today) with his trusty bicycle, bicycling from the station through Stoke town, and up the lower slopes of Hartshill.