HOBBIT stars Sir Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman have backed a campaign to turn the author JRR Tolkien's former Oxford home into a museum.

The actors are the latest big names to support a crowdfunding effort which has three months to save the house once owned by the Lord of the Rings writer.

Sir Ian plays Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of Tolkien’s books and also found fame in the X Men series, while Mr Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins and has also starred in The Office, Sherlock, Love Actually, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.

The initiative is also backed by John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and also appeared in the Indiana Jones films.

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Tolkien and his family moved into 20 Northmoor Road in North Oxford in 1930 and lived there for 17 years while he was professor of Anglo-Saxon at the university. It was there he wrote The Hobbit, a novel that began as a bedtime story for his children, and followed it up with The Lord of the Rings.

Author Julia Golding has launched Project Northmoor, a charity that has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise £4.5m to buy the house and turn it into a literary centre before it is put on the market.

Oxford Mail:

Sir Ian McKellen with Louise Chantal

The project has been backed by actors including Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of Tolkien’s books, Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo Baggins, and John Rhys-Davies, who plays Gimli.

The project is also being supported by singer Annie Lennox and actor Sir Derek Jacobi.

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JRR Tolkien

The seven-bedroom house, which has a large garden, would be renovated to show what it would have been like when Tolkien lived there, with plans to run a series of retreats and cultural events in the building and online.

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The house, which is Grade II-listed, does not belong to the Tolkien estate – the author moved out in 1947 – and the estate is not involved with Project Northmoor.

“Unbelievably, considering his importance, there is no centre devoted to Tolkien anywhere in the world,” said Mr Rhys-Davies.

“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.”

Oxford Mail:

Tolkien, wife Edith and grandson Simon

“To raise $6m in three months is a huge challenge,” said Ms Golding.

“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.

“We cannot achieve this without the support of the worldwide community of Tolkien fans, our fellowship of funders,” said Sir Ian.

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Ms Golding has negotiated a three-month fundraising window with the current owner and hopes to raise £4.5m.

The house would cost £4m, with the remainder to be used on building regulations, start-up costs and developing the literary programmes.

Once established, the charity hopes to be financially self-sustaining.

“Our vision is to make Tolkien’s house not a dry museum, but a homely house of continuing creativity,” said the project organisers.

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Inside 20 Northmoor Road Picture: Breckon & Breckon

The house, which has a blue plaque, spans almost 4,000 sq ft and was built in 1924.

If the project is not fully funded, the organisers say the money raised will be used to fulfil the charity’s objectives of promoting Tolkien’s works, including establishing courses and events on the author to “inspire future generations of writers and artists in fantasy and other genres”.

Tolkien, who died in 1973, was a member of The Inklings writers’ group, which also included CS Lewis. They would meet in the Eagle and Child in St Giles.

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Ian Green

Ian Green, chairman of Oxford Civic Society, said: “This would be very good for Oxford - Tolkien and his works are globally famous so this would help to rebuild tourism which has suffered so badly because of the virus.

"A museum like this would be a big draw.

"As tourism recovers we need to think about how it is managed in the city."

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Liberal Democrat city councillor for Wolvercote Liz Wade said: "We really must recognise what Tolkien has contributed – a new mythology is a very rare thing and Tolkien created one.

"22 Northmoor Road should be preserved as a study centre and archive, and I will personally contribute to the crowdfunding."