Was “Lord of the Rings” really “Lord of Mitton Manor”?
The Tolkien Connection
Stonyhurst is now a well-known historic Jesuit Catholic College. The area of Aighton around Stonyhurst is often a geographic reference for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy completed in the early 1950s. Tolkien’s three sons attended Stonyhurst College during the 1940`s & 50s. Their father is said to have drawn his location descriptions for his books on his walks around Great Mitton while visiting his sons at Stonyhurst. He often stopped at the Shireburne Arms for beer. Tolkien denotes the Ribble river in his book as the river Shireburne.
And “Mitton wood” was the Hobbits “Shire” forest amongst many other references. Tolkien uses much of the medieval manor lands of the ancient lords of Mitton manor as inspiration for his trilogies. His Aunt was Mabel Mitton* which also suggests he knew more about the area than just his visits to his sons. The connection is a minor one though.
J.R.R. Tolkien was himself a devote Catholic and both he and his brother had been raised by a Catholic priest after his mother had died of diabetes. This may explain his use of the area of Great Mitton in his books and the education of his sons at Stonyhurst College, the foremost private Catholic school in England.
The Tolkien Trail
Or a walk through “Ralphs the Red’s” backyard today.
This is the Tolkien Trail that you can walk today. All of it is on the ancient lands of Ralph the Red’s manor lands and parish. The Shireburne Arms and Hurst Green (see photos below) are by no. 1. Stonyhurst College is above no. 3 & 4. Cromwell’s Bridge (see sub-drop down) is no. 8. The confluence of the rivers Hodder and Ribble is on the right of the map by no. 9. This is Tolkiens ‘Middle Earth’ or ‘Midgard’, and the geographic basis for his trilogies. ‘Mit-ton’ is itself seems partially derived from ancient Norse meaning ‘middle town’ of a very similar root that Tolkien uses to describe “midgard” as “middle earth” in his trilogies.
This is right in front of the Shireburne Arms Hotel. It commemorates the veterans of World War l. The names on the marker are Aighton (on back side), Chaighley and Bailey. These lands were part of the first charter grants from Nov. 23, 1102 to Ralph the Red and the original Yorkshire part of the parish of Mitton. In the background over the valley is Great Mitton. Stonyhurst is up the road from here. Otto de Bailey is Ralph the Red’s great grandson who received Bailey manor from his brother Hugh de Mitton then the Lord of Mitton manor around 1200.
Stonyhurst (above now side entrance) was built on the original feudal lands of Ralph the Red. The Shireburnes who built the main structure married into the de Mitton descendant family of Otto de Mittons scion Bailey family line in 1377. Richard Baileys only son by Margarete Shireburne adopted his Mothers surname. He was a direct descendant of Otto de Mitton of near by Bailey manor and inherited Stonyhurst from his grandfather John Bailey in 1392 at age 9.
Left is the marker commemorating World War l in Hurst Green where the Tolkien trail starts. The Catholic Club is right behind it. This is still a prevalent Catholic area going back to the days of the Shireburnes. Tolkien was raised by Catholic Priests and probably explains why three of his sons went to Stonyhurst.
*Letter from J. R. R. Tolkiens father announcing the birth of his son:
*My dear Mother,
I have good news for you this week. Mabel gave me a beautiful little son last night (3 January). It was rather before time, but the baby is strong and well and Mabel has come through wonderfully. The baby is (of course) lovely. It has beautiful hands and ears (very long fingers), very light hair, ‘Tolkien’ eyes and very distinctly a ‘Suffield’ mouth. In general effect immensely like a very fair edition of its Aunt Mabel Mitton. When we first reached Dr Stollreither yesterday he said it was a false alarm and told the nurse to go home for a fortnight but he was mistaken and I fetched him again about eight and then he stayed till 12.40 when we had a whiskey to drink luck to the boy. The boy’s first name will be ‘John’ after its grandfather, probably John Ronald Reuel altogether. Mab wants to call it Ronald and I want to keep up John and Reuel.
J.R.R.Tolkien sites related to Mitton: