Blue plaque celebrates time Lord of the Rings author Tolkien spent near Withernsea a century ago

A blue plaque has gone up in Withernsea to mark the time Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien and his wife spent there when he was a soldier during World War One.

The unveiling of the plaque at 76 Queen Street
The unveiling of the plaque at 76 Queen Street

The Lifeboat Café, where it has gone up, occupies the site of 76 Queen Street, where Tolkien’s wife Edith lodged in 1917, while he was stationed at nearby Thirtle Bridge Camp, three miles away, for a time as commander of the Humber Garrison, which was tasked with protecting the coast from invasion.

Tolkien, who was recovering from trench fever which he’d picked up in France, had not yet been published. However more than 50 years later he recalled the impact the sight of his raven-haired wife dancing and singing in a wooded glade in the village of Roos.

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It so enchanted him he used it as the “landscape” for the first meeting of the star-crossed lovers Berien and Lúthien.

Tolkien was best known as the author of the "high fantasy" works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

"There are yet some (histories) in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien, " wrote Tolkien in The Silmarillion.

The tale is about a mortal who fell in love with an immortal elf named Lúthien. Since her father didn’t approve, he sent the man on an impossible task, which he must perform before he can wed her. Eventually, Lúthien gives up her immortality so she can be with him.

Their characters had great personal significance for the author: having had Lúthien’ engraved on Edith’s tombstone, when Tolkien died 21 months later he arranged for Beren to be added under his own name.

The plaque, funded by wellwishers, was organised by Phil Mathison, the author of Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917-1918.

Two others have been installed at the Dennison Centre in Hull, which was Brooklands Hospital during the First World war, and in Hornsea, where his wife stayed at 1 Bank Terrace.