"What they're saying is that last night Voldemort turned up in Godric's Hollow. He went to find the Potters. The rumor is that Lily and James Potter are -- are -- that they're --- dead."
-- Minerva McGonagall (PS1)
Though a Muggle village, Godric’s Hollow has a storied wizarding history. For over a thousand years it has been home to notable wizards and witches, and has been most famous as the birthplace of Hogwarts founder Godric Gryffindor.
However, it has become renowned instead as the site of Voldemort’s first downfall. Voldemort came to the village in 1981, in the midst of an open war on the wizarding world, intending to kill one-year-old Harry Potter after overhearing a prophecy predicting Harry’s power. Instead his Killing Curse rebounded, blowing apart the house and destroying him. Today there are memorials to this event throughout the village, which Harry and Hermione discover when they visit on Christmas Eve, 1997 (DH16, DH17).
After the three failed attempts to change time, Godric’s Hollow and St Jerome’s Church also become the scene of a battle to prevent Delphi trying to pre-warn her father Voldemort about the peril of trying to kill the baby Harry (CC4.10, CC4.11).
Godric’s Hollow is over a thousand years old, evidenced by the fact that it was the birthplace of Godric Gryffindor (DH16) who we know helped found Hogwarts at least this long ago (CS9). Since we know the village was named for Gryffindor (DH16), it seems likely it originally bore a different name, and was renamed for Gryffindor sometime after his historical achievements became commonly known.
Over the years Godric’s Hollow had a number of magical residents; we know “the graveyard is full of names of ancient magical families” (DH16). Ignotus Peverell, one of the three brothers of Deathly Hallows lore, is buried here and passed his Cloak of Invisibility down through his descendents in the village, leading later wizards to come visit in search of his Hallow (DH35). Bowman Wright also lived here when he invented the Golden Snitch in the 1300s (QA4).
When the International Statute of Secrecy was enacted in 1689, Godric’s Hollow, like Tinworth, Upper Flagley, and Ottery St. Catchpole, attracted a number of magical residents — “communities within a community” (DH16). Among those who have lived there more recently are the Dumbledore family, of which Kendra and Ariana both perished in that town in the late 1800s; Bathilda Bagshot, author of A History of Magic, until her death in 1997; and the Potter family – James, Lily, and their son Harry (DH16, DH17). Gellert Grindelwald also spent a summer here, having come in search of the Cloak of Invisibility in 1899. He stayed with his great-aunt, Bathilda, and spent his days with Albus Dumbledore.
Though always famous for being Gryffindor’s origin, the town sealed its place in wizarding history on October 31, 1981, when Voldemort killed Lily and James Potter and attempted to kill Harry, inadvertently destroying himself instead (PS1). The house, with part of the upstairs blown off, still stands as a monument to this event which drove Voldemort away for over thirteen years and gave Harry Potter the tools he needed to eventually bring about the Dark Lord’s ultimate demise (DH17, DH36).
Godric’s Hollow is located in the West Country of southwestern England (DH16), putting it in the heart of perhaps the most wizarding-friendly region in Britain. Ottery St. Catchpole is in this area, as are Cornwall, Devon, several Quidditch teams, and a number of known Quidditch stadiums built on the abundant local moors. We have a couple of more specific clues that could lead us to its location as well:
- Godric Gryffindor is described as being from “wild moor” (GF12), suggesting again the rural nature of the town.
- Hagrid’s flight from Godric’s Hollow to Surrey after picking up Harry takes him over Bristol (PS1), suggesting that the town is located in the northern region of the West Country, near Exmoor and not far from the Bristol Channel. There is some question as to where Hagrid was actually flying from, however – see Steve Vander Ark’s essay Is Godric’s Hollow in Wales? for more.
At the center of the village itself is a square with a post office, a pub, and a church with a graveyard behind it. In the middle of the square is a war memorial which, upon closer inspection by wizards, transforms into a statue of James, Lily, and young Harry Potter – a monument to their final stand. The graveyard, with a kissing gate at the front, is the final resting place of Ignotus Peverell, Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore, and James and Lily Potter, among others (DH16).
The village seems to contain only a small number of dwellings overall, as the open country begins a short distance from the square. Down one road that leads out of town is the home of Bathilda Bagshot, and further down the cottage where the Potters lived and were attacked by Voldemort. The cottage remains today as it was on the day of Voldemort’s attack, still blown apart on the second floor. A memorial plaque rises in front of it when the gate is touched, specifying that the house has intentionally been left as a monument to the epic war against Voldemort (DH17).
- Bowman Wright, inventor of the Golden Snitch – fourteenth century (QA4)
- The Dumbledore family: Kendra, Albus, Aberforth, and Ariana – late nineteenth and/or early twentieth century (DH16)
- Bathilda Bagshot, author of A History of Magic – through her death in 1997 (DH22), including a summer-long visit from her great-nephew Gellert Grindelwald in 1899 (DH18)
- The Potter family: Lily, James, & Harry – 1960 (James’s birth, if he lived there at that time) through the deaths of James and Lily in 1981 (PS1, DH16)
- An unnamed member of an Abbott family, possibly related to Hannah (though this is unverified) (DH16)