At the end of the mystery six week-period mentioned earlier Edith moved into lodgings in Withernsea. We know she was installed there by 12th July. Phil Mathison has shown that Edith’s lodgings in Withernsea were at 76 Queen Street on the corner of Queen Street and Hull Road, which is now the Lifeboat café. The back of this property may still be seen from the top of Withernsea lighthouse. John Garth has shown that Withernsea had a temporary significance in Tolkien’s developing mythology. In a Gnomish lexicon he was compiling he wrote under the title and the name of Eriol, the mariner, the words “Tol Withernon (and many places besides), 1917.” Eriol is significant because in some respects he can be seen as a self-portrait, and in early versions of the legendarium his arrival in Eressëa provides the framing-story of The Book of Last Tales. Unfortunately, for East Yorkshire Tol Withernon (almost certainly inspired by Withernsea) was never mentioned again.
Edith’s lodgings at 76 Queen Street are only about 200 yards away from Withernsea’s only monolithic structure, the lighthouse completed in 1894. The lighthouse is 127 feet high (39m) and is at least three times the height of any of the surrounding buildings. The lighthouse is a striking structure in what is an otherwise unremarkable town made even more so by being painted brilliant white. The lighthouse is unusual in being built well inland from the sea, and Edith’s lodgings were slightly nearer to the lighthouse than the sea. Today the white tower is surrounded by domestic dwellings, but in 1917 the adjacent area was much less cluttered, as an early postcard shows. Since completion it has always dominated the surrounding town and countryside.
When the light was working the beam could be seen for a radius of 17 miles, but even unlit as it is today, the lighthouse as a structure may still be seen from the southern edge of Roos. The road leaving Roos undulates slightly, so in the hollows the lighthouse is lost to sight, but it comes back into view again as soon as one gains height. The lighthouse would have been visible to Tolkien from the camp as long as the sightlines were not blocked by the temporary camp buildings.
Shortly after the outbreak of war the Hull Daily Mail reported that Withernsea lighthouse had been in darkness for a fortnight, so when Tolkien was in Holderness three years later the light would still have been doused for most of the time. There were exceptions though, and the light was permitted to glow again during World War Two if a special convoy needed escorting through the hazardous shallows off the Yorkshire coast. The evidence is lacking for World War One, but the Withernsea Museum assumes that the situation would have been almost identical during the earlier conflict.
Although Tolkien explicitly states in his interview with Denys Gueroult that he did not think in symbols, when he caught sight of the brilliant white lighthouse from anywhere in Holderness, surely he would be reminded of Edith, especially while she was lodged virtually at the lighthouse’s foot? Indeed, it seems (highly) probable that even after Edith left for Cheltenham that this striking white structure would still remind Tolkien of his wife’s former sojourn in the town.