Did this door inspire Tolkien’s Doors of Durin?
Studded with nails and framed on both sides by two gnarled, ancient yew trees, the 13th-century north door of St. Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold looks as if it would transport a visitor to another realm should they pass through it.
According to many, this door served as Tolkien’s inspiration for the Doors of Durin that guard the western entrance to the Mines of Moria. In both the book and the film, the Doors of Durin are framed by two large yew trees just like this real-life hobbit door at St. Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold. However, the resemblance pretty much stops there.
While Tolkien did visit the Cotswolds many times, there’s no concrete proof to support this fantastical theory. Even so, the door at St. Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold is well worth a visit for any Lord of the Rings (or fantasy) fan. There are many more possible sources of inspiration for Tolkien and Lord of the Rings in the Cotswolds.
(Unfortunately, saying friend will not open the door.)
Aside from its suspected Lord of the Rings connection, St. Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold makes for a great stop on a visit to the town.
History of St. Edward’s Church
The earliest documented reference to a church at the site dates to 986 AD. Because monks from Evesham Abbey owned land in the area as early as 708 AD, it is possible that an earlier iteration of the church existed at that time. The earliest church(es) on the site would have been built using wood.
Unfortunately, almost nothing remains of the 12th-century Norman stone church. The nave, the oldest part of the church, was constructed in the 13th century. The chancel was built in the 14th century and the tower was rebuilt in 1445 on an older base.
The Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold
I discuss this battle in more detail in my guide to Stow-on-the-Wold. After this battle, Royalist prisoners were held in the church. Visitors can look out for a memorial on the floor commemorating the Royalist soldier, Captain Hastings Keyte of Ebrington.
Because of damage to the church during the battle and its aftermath, St. Edward’s Church was in desperate need of repair. However, it wouldn’t be fully restored until the late 1600s. In 1847 and 1859, JL Pearson, known for architecting Truro Cathedral in Cornwall, restored the church.
Points of interest in St. Edward’s Church
- The North Door, or Hobbit door, or yew tree door, or Lord of the Rings Door, which potentially served as the inspiration for Tolkien’s Doors of Durin. (north exterior)
- The Crucifixion painting by early 17th-century Flemish artist Gaspar de Crayer. Joseph Chamberlayne of Maugersbury Manor presented it to the church in 1875. (south entrance)
- A gilded memorial to the Chamberlayne family, lords of the manor. (south wall of the chancel)
- The 16th-century font
- 13th-century nave columns
Which Edward is St. Edward’s Church named after?
The Edward from whom St. Edward’s Church takes its name has never been 100% agreed upon. There are three possible Edwards. The first was an early Christian hermit who lived at the base of Stow Hill. The second, a 10th-century Saxon boy king and martyr. The third, and the most likely, candidate is most likely King Edward the Confessor, the son of Aethelred the Unready and one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England, who reigned from 1042-1066.
The town of Stow-on-the-Wold was named Edwardstow until 1107 when Henry II granted the town a charter and renamed it Stow-on-the-Wold. The church kept the name St. Edward’s Church.
Visiting St. Edward’s Church
The church is open daily and free to enter. As always, visiting a house of worship necessitates respect and quiet for those who might be worshipping inside.
There is free parking in Stow-on-the-Wold but I recommend parking in the free visitor parking adjacent to the Tesco on Fosse Way, about a 5-minute walk to the Market Square and an 8-minute walk to the church.
What else to do in Stow-on-the-Wold
As one of the larger market towns in the Cotswolds, Stow-on-the-Wold has plenty to offer visitors aside from its Hobbit door. Enjoy a meal at one of its many historic pubs, go antiquing at some of the finest antique shops in southern England, or take a stroll around its Market Square. Learn more about what there is to do in Stow-on-the-Wold in my guide to the town.