Project Northmoor, a recently launched crowdfunding campaign to buy the former home of J.R.R. Tolkien and convert it into a museum-slash-literary center, has gained the support of a prominent wizard, a prodigiously bearded dwarf warrior, and Annie Lennox.
As reported by BBC News, the scheme was recently launched by British novelist Julia Golding as a way to remove the Grade II-listed property at 20 Northmoor Road in Oxford, England, from the market once and for all and preserve it for future generations as the world’s first literary center dedicated to Tolkien. The South Africa-born writer and academic lived at the home with his family from 1930 through 1947 while employed as a professor at Oxford University. Famously, the residence is where Tolkien, who died in 1973, penned both The Hobbit (1937) and the bulk of The Lord of the Rings (1954–1955) trilogy.
While the home isn’t under threat per se, there are concerns about its ties to Tolkien being eroded as it changes hands. The 3,500-square-foot property, which features six bedrooms, off-street parking, and a “larger than average garden” per the listing, was put up for sale late last year by its current owners who had purchased it in 2004 and have no ties to the Tolkien estate. The listing price for the home was then lowered and ultimately pulled altogether from the market in order to give Project Northmoor organizers a fair start in raising funds for the purchase. According to a press release announcing the launch of the campaign, the home remains “largely unchanged” since it was built in 1924.
While the estate itself is not involved with the campaign to raise the $6 million needed to purchase the home, renovate it, and develop programming, several denizens of Middle–earth—or at least the actors who played them—are: Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Jonathan Rhys-Davies (Gimli), and Sir Ian McKellen (Gandolf) have all thrown their support behind Golding’s initiative and appeared in a promotional video that stresses the importance of converting 20 Northmoor Road into a Tolkien-celebrating literary center. And although he didn’t have a role in The Lord of the Rings films, celebrated British actor Derek Jacobi also appears in the video. (Jacobi had a supporting role in the Nicholas Hoult-starring 2019 biopic Tolkien.)
“Unbelievably, considering his importance, there is no centre devoted to Tolkien anywhere in the world,” said Welsh-born actor Rhys-Davies in the press release. “The vision is to make Tolkien’s house into a literary hub that will inspire new generations of writers, artists and film-makers for many years to come.”
As mentioned, inimitable pop legend Annie Lennox, who performed “Into the West,” the end-credit song for 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, has also come out in support of the campaign by appearing in the video as has John Howe, a Canadian illustrator best known for serving as a chief conceptual designer for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
As detailed by The Guardian, any money raised in excess of $6 million within the tight three-month fundraising window will be used to help establish a fund for low-income individuals who wish to visit the planned center for “for creative courses and special events” and to build a proper “hobbit house” on the property. If the $6.45 million mark is reached, a “Smaug’s lair for pipe smokers” would be built along with an Elven treehouse. The charity notes that the center—described as “not a dry museum, but a homely house of continuing creativity”—will be financially self-sustaining once up and running.
“To raise six million dollars in three months is a huge challenge,” said Golding, a former diplomat who is best known for penning the historical adventure series of books, Cat Royals and who also lives in the area, according to the New York Times. “However, we need only to look at Frodo and Sam’s journey from Rivendell to Mount Doom, which took that same amount of time—and we are inspired that we can do this too!”