J.R.R. Tolkien spent much of his childhood in Birmingham, living in the Kings Heath and Sarehole areas after moving there from South Africa with his mother in 1896. It is believed by many that several prominent Birmingham landmarks may have influenced Tolkien, shaping the stories in his well-known books ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Discover Tolkien’s Birmingham; you could visit all these sites in one jam-packed day!
Sarehole Mill is one of only two working watermills left in Birminghamtoday. The building standing today was built in 1750, although a mill was documented at this site from the Tudor period.
Sarehole Mill may have been an influence when Tolkien created the places ‘The Shire’ and ‘Hobbiton’ in his books. Sarehole Mill’s idyllic setting and nearby Moseley Bog draws comparisons with Tolkien’s rural fantasy locations. Notably, Tolkien and his brother were regularly chased away from the Mill by the miller’s son!
The Mill held special memories for Tolkien, and he aided the public appeal to restore the museum in the 1960s. Now open as a museum, Sarehole Mill can be enjoyed all year round by the public.
The Joseph Chamberlain Clock Tower, or Old Joe to students, sits proudly in the centre of the University of Birmingham campus. Built between 1900 and 1908, it was designed in the Neo-Classical style, and is known as a campanile; the Itallian term for ‘bell tower’.
Tolkien stayed at the University of Birmingham in 1916. The University was being used as temporary wards during World War I, and Tolkien was treated there following contracting trench fever in the Somme.
It has been suggested that Old Joe’s glowing clockface inspired the creation of ‘The Eye of Sauron’ from Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.
Perrott’s Folly was built in 1758 by John Perrott, who was a local landowner. There has been very creative speculation over the reason for constructing the Folly, but the most common reason is as a status symbol and place for entertaining guests.
Perrott’s Folly and the nearby Edgbaston Waterworks Tower make a formidable pair in the Birmingham skyline. It has been suggested that these two towers could have influenced the ‘Two Towers of Gondor’ in Tolkien’s works.
Tolkien’s Birmingham is a varied collection of sites that inspired Tolkien and featured at key moments in his life. Take a tour and travel through idyllic hideaways to city landmarks. Visit the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery website for more information on their Tolkien Trail to get your exploration started.
Featured image property of Nic Redhead