The former home of famed author J.R.R. Tolkien is poised to re-enter the market, and fans of the author’s work are at the ready with a crowdfunding campaign, the goal of which is to buy the home, restore it, and turn it into a Tolkien museum.
The campaign, which began on Wednesday and was reported by the New York Times, is called “Project Northmoor” in homage to the home’s address at 20 Northmoor Road in Oxford. From 1930 to 1947, Tolkien lived at the property with his wife Edith and their four children as he wrote “The Hobbit” and a substantial portion of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Project Northmoor aims to raise at least $5.3 million in order to purchase the house, but hopes for as much as $6.45 million in order to complete all desired renovations and additions (including a Hobbit house in the garden), and establish a fund for low-income individuals to attend creative classes and events at the museum free of charge.
In addition to the museum, the nonprofit group, spearheaded by British novelist Julia Golding, wants to establish a literary center on-site devoted to Tolkien studies. Several celebrities are supporting the cause, including a number of actors who were in recent Peter Jackson-directed films based off of Tolkien’s books, like Sir Ian McKellen (who played Gandalf in the films), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), and Martin Freeman (Bilbo).
“Now, we know this is a big ask in difficult times, so we are only asking you to give what you can afford,” Golding says in a video posted on the Project Northmoor website.
“We will only succeed if we all do this together as a fellowship,” McKellen added in the video.
Even a modest “Hobbit Gift” of $25 will give the donor the honor of their name being put in the “Red Book of Funders” to be placed in Tolkien’s study, according to the project’s website. Or, a generous “Elf Gift” of $25,000 would name the donor a life patron of the center, free entrance to all special events and an invitation to a special weekend celebration in Oxford.
The property was listed in 2019 with Breckon & Breckon for the first time in about 20 years for roughly $6 million (4.7 million British pounds). The asking price was then lowered to about $5.3 million before the home was removed from the market in order to give the nonprofit group time to come up with funds for the property.
The home was last sold in 2004 for 1.6 million British pounds, and that year was named a Grade II listed building “of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it,” because of Tolkien’s time in residence there. The designation on the National Heritage List for England means that owners will have to follow specific regulations for making changes to the property’s interior and exterior and apply for consent to making alterations, one possible reason why the property did not readily sell when it was listed initially.
Fittingly, the home has a literary history through and through: The six-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot house was built in 1924 for Basil Blackwell, a notable Oxford bookseller and son of Benjamin Blackwell who founded Oxford’s Blackwell bookshop and publishing empire (the publishing arm of which is now part of academic publisher Wiley-Blackwell).
Standout details of the home include high ceilings and large windows, a “generously sized reception hall” with a grand staircase to the second floor and a spacious drawing room where Tolkien wrote and met with students, which features double doors that open out to the author’s prized garden.
According to the original listing, “the property remains largely unaltered since it was built,” and includes original touches like hardwood floors, wood-burning fireplaces and an old bell system in the kitchen to communicate with different parts of the house.