Categorized | Gwyneth's Blog

Famous Writers from Headingley

Sweet Shop

I was quite unaware growing up that within a square mile or two of where I lived in Headingley, several famous authors had also lived. Headingley is a suburb of Leeds with a rich history going back to Saxon days, but in more recent years it housed authors like J.R.R. Tolkien (“Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”), Alan Bennett, the playwright (“The Madness of King George”) and Arthur Ransome (children’s classic “Swallows and Amazons“).  While studying at Leeds University, Tolkien lived in a terraced house on Otley Road opposite the sweet (candy) shop on St. Anne’s Parade where I regularly agonized how to spend my weekly pocket money (allowance). Alan Bennett lived over the butcher’s shop where mother used to buy her meat while I dawdled in the other sweet shop opposite the Three Horseshoes Pub, with my sister, gazing at bonbons in glass jars. We would dash home through the ginnel (alley) opposite the butcher’s to read books like the children’s classic “Swallows and Amazons”, little knowing that Arthur Ransome was born in Ash Grove, a stone’s throw from Headingley, in Hyde Park. I still dream of bonbons and perhaps there was something atmospheric that I absorbed while trying to make up my mind between cinder toffee versus those flying saucers that melt in your mouth, something like a writer’s muse that hovered over the sweet shops which one day led to my penning “Death Before Breakfast.” I wonder if Tolkien was in the habit of sauntering across Otley Road in a quest for a bag of striped humbugs to suck on for inspiration when he ran into writers’ block. I’d like to think that the  ‘high fantasy’ worlds he imagined had something to do with a sugar high. Thankfully there is a new sweet shop in Headingley that I discovered on my trip home Christmas 2010.

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