Blue Plate Special

Photo of 2 Darnley Road taken in 1945.

The house where J. R. R. Tolkien and his family lived while he was a Reader in English language at the University of Leeds in the 1920s will be acknowledged with a blue plaque by the Leeds Civic Trust on October 1.

The Tolkien family lived at 2 Darnley Road, West Park for over a year before Tolkien’s election to the Rawlinson and Bosworth chair of Anglo-Saxon saw them return to Oxford in 1926. During his time at the University of Leeds Tolkien was instrumental in shaping the English Language syllabus at the university; some aspects of this were still present sixty years later. He also worked with E.V. Gordon to produce an edition of the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was published in 1925.

The Tolkiens resided briefly at 5 Holly Bank, Headingley and then leasing a house in St Mark’s Terrace before buying the semi-detached property in Darnley Road in 1924.

Ian Spittlehouse, Trustee and the Tolkien Society’s liaison with the representatives of West Park and the Leeds Civic Trust said, “This is a timely recognition of Tolkien’s tenure in Leeds, and a welcome addition to Yorkshire’s influence on his academic and literary career.”

3 thoughts on “Blue Plate Special

  1. It might help clarify the story, for those who don’t know the details, to specify that the Tolkiens had been in Leeds since 1920. The Darnley Road house was the first residence they bought, and they actually lived there for almost two years. Tolkien was well settled in Leeds, enjoyed his work and the students, was promoted to a professorship, and was intending to stay (some early writers on his work called it an “exile”, but he didn’t think of it that way), when the professorship at Oxford opened up and the opportunity to apply was too golden to miss. For his last two terms at Leeds, he split his time between there and Oxford, and his family stayed in Leeds.

  2. The editing choices make for an intersting debate. I now think I shouldn’t have included as much background as I did — the story isn’t substantial enough to bear the weight of all the info needed to frame an answer to why Tolkien was in Leeds and why anybody would commemorate this house he lived in for such a brief time. But I’m interested and am happy to get a fuller account from you.

  3. Oh, I agree; you needn’t have been as detailed as you were. In fact, the story at all is only really of interest to a few (I was pleased to learn it). But while it may be optional, when you say A, whether to add B, sometimes if you do say B you need to add C as well, or it leaves B hanging in the air.

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