On my last visit to Oxford, England, in March of last year, I finally took the long walk out Banbury Road to Wolvercote Cemetery to see the final resting place of J.R.R. Tolkien, who died at age 81 on September 2, 1973, fifty years ago today.
To mark the occasion I’ve been looking through some photographs from the cemetery and other Tolkien-related sights in Oxford from my March 2022 visit. I’ve uploaded a gallery and also prepared a map, embedded at the end of this post.
20 Northmoor Road
On the somewhat meandering walk from town to the cemetery, I also stopped by Tolkien’s longtime residence at 20 Northmoor Road, where he lived when he wrote The Hobbit and much of The Lord of the Rings. Built in 1924, “it had originally been designed by architect Fred E Openshaw … for Basil Blackwell, the owner of Blackwell’s Bookshop.” After moving in in 1930, Tolkien “turned the drawing room into his study and it’s there that he worked on both his key literary analysis of Beowulf and on a fantasy story he had conceived to entertain his own children, which would go on to become a worldwide best seller—The Hobbit.” To mark its association with Tolkien, the house has had a blue plaque since 2004. (These details all from a Country Life story about the house going on the market in 2019.)
There was an unsuccessful effort at that point to buy the house and turn it “into the first literary centre in the world dedicated to Tolkien.” The group behind that bid is now the Oxford Centre for Fantasy and they have recently acquired another, nearby property at 5 Northmoor Road.
The Eagle and Child pub
As on previous trips to Oxford, I also went by The Eagle and Child pub many times, though this time was unable to stop in as it has been closed since the early days of Covid. This is the pub where the Inlings literary group that included Tolkien and also C.S. Lewis regularly met for decades. That saga of the pub’s closure and when or whether they would be able to reopen is well chronicled and easily searched on the Oxford Mail’s site. The latest news is that an “application to make the pub bigger with a new restaurant area has been submitted by property agents Savills, on behalf of the pub’s owners St John’s College. ¶ Savills said: ‘The applicant recognises the historic importance of the Eagle and Child pub, not least due to its connections with the Inklings, and remains committed to reopening the site as a pub.’”
The Oxford Oratory Church of St Aloysius Gonzaga
On the same trip, I also attended the Sunday solemn mass—in Latin!—at the Oxford Oratory for the first time. It turns out this is the same church where Tolkien regularly “attended daily mass very early in the morning. He usually went with his children by bike to the 7:30am mass” at the then-Jesuit St Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic Church.