Added on April 10, 2009 by Richard „Galadhorn” Derdzinski
Translated by Jarek „Noatar” Schramel
On March 22, we celebrated another wedding anniversary of Ronald and Edith Tolkien, and a commemorative entry was made for the occasion. A few weeks later I visited the Catholic Church of Saint Mary Immaculate again. I had a mission to fulfil – I wished to see and photograph the marriage certificate of Ronald and Edith.
It was around 4.30 pm, April 2, when I rang at the door of the parsonage of the Catholic Church of Saint Mary Immaculate located at 45 West Street, Warwick. After a while the door opened, and a priest appeared. It was Canon E.M. Stewart. I told him that I had learned on the parish website that visitors might find in the records an entry on the wedding of Mr and Mrs Tolkien. The priest then smiled and ushered me in. I told him my name and what brought me to Warwick. My host asked me to wait in the church office; he left and returned a moment later, carrying in his hands a fair-sized book. He opened it right to the page I’d asked him for, and this is what I saw:
Anno 1916 die 22 mensis Martii Ego Gulielmus J. Murphy in Matrimonio conjunxi Joannem Ronald Reuel Tolkien ex Stafford (Brocton Camp) filium Arthuri Reuel Tolkien, et Editham Bratt ex Warwick filiam Frederici Bratt.
Presentibus testibus: Anne W. Johnson, Jennie Grove
(Translation: ‚On March 22, 1916, I, William J. Murphy, united in holy matrimony John Ronald Reuel Tolkien of Stafford (Brocton Camp), son of Arthur Reuel Tolkien, and Edith Bratt of Warwick, daughter of Frederick Bratt.
Witnesses to the ceremony: Anne W. Johnson, Jennie Grove’)
An unclear note was added below; I think it was:
Noticii pro E[dith] B[ratt] **** in “Regesti Bapt.” in hac Ecclesiam
I ask you to help us make out this note. I believe it should be understood as: ‘The christening entry of Edith Bratt will be found in the Register of Christenings of this church.’
None of the biographies of Tolkien that I know contain a reproduction or copy of this marriage certificate, which in my opinion provides us with at least one new and interesting piece of information. Neither Carpenter (in his Biography) nor Garth (the author of the Tolkien and the Great War), nor Father John Tolkien and his sister Priscilla (The Tolkien Family Album), or Scull and Hammond (Companion and Guide) state that witnesses to the wedding ceremony of Ronald and Edith were two women, namely Anne W. Johnson and Jennie Grove. So far it was believed that that wedding was a very quiet ceremony, and that it were only the young couple and Father Murphy who took part in it. But thanks to the register of weddings we know now that more people were present at the ceremony. We know nothing about Anna W. Johnson (but maybe you do?); on the other hand, the name of Jennie Grove is well known to all readers of biographies of Tolkien – Jenny was Edith Bratt’s cousin.
Jenny Grove (1864-1938) spent her childhood in Blundell Sands, near Liverpool. She later moved to Warwick to live with her younger cousin, Edith Bratt. The two women then moved several times to follow the battalion in which Tolkien served. After World War I Jenny came to live with the Tolkiens in Oxford and stayed there until 1921 when Ronald, Edith and their children moved for some time to Leeds. Her family used to call her Auntie Ie, which showed the way her name was pronounced by little John, the Tolkiens’ first-born. By virtue of her age, Jenny had been a mother substitute for Edith, and a grandmother substitute for her children. Because of spine damage she had suffered as a child, Jenny was a woman of short height (about 4 ft 9 in, or 1.46 m), yet she had a strong character. She was one of the first British to receive a pension (5 shillings a week). She was also provided some financial assistance by the Tolkiens, whom she paid long visits, although she lived on her own. She came to live in a one-room flat in Birmingham where she spent the rest of her life. You will find her photograph in The Tolkien Family Album, p. 36. Her portrait (done by J.R.R. Tolkien) appeared in Artist and Illustrator (fig. 24).
Brocton Camp was an army training camp in Staffordshire. Together with the Rugeley camp, it was part of the scenery of Cannock Chase – the land of huge heaths located between Lichfield and Stafford.
On my last visit to Warwick I took a couple of new photographs of the Church: you can see a place by the altar where Ronald and Edith vowed to remain faithful and honest, and love each other for life. Here are these photos (click to enlarge):