Tolkien's Birmingham



JRR is best known as the author of The Hobbit and its sequel The Lord of The RingsThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.


We welcomed Max Davidson to Birmingham to experience our Tolkien heritage – read the piece here.

In 1896 Tolkien’s family moved back to Birmingham and it is widely believed that areas in Birmingham provided inspiration for some of the settings in his work.

Initially the family lived in the village of Sarehole, the village is said to be the inspiration for Hobbiton and the Shire. Tolkien and his brother spent many hours playing around Sarehole Mill and being chased by the miller’s son, whom they nicknamed the “White Ogre.” Tolkien said that the times he spent at Sarehole were the happiest years of his youth. In the 1960’s Tolkien contributed to a public appeal to restore the Mill, which had become dilapidated. Sarehole Mill is now a Museum managed by Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and is open in the summer to the public. It has become a place of pilgrimage to the many Tolkien fans who come to Birmingham for the Middle-earth weekend every May, dressed as Gandalf and other characters from the books.

Moseley Bog is another area that Tolkien and his brother used to explore. The Bog is a wonderful hidden part of Moseley and it was an ideal place for Tolkien’s childhood adventures. The Bog is recalled in Tolkien’s description of the “Old Forest,” last of the primeval wild woods, where “Tom Bombadil” lived.

In 1900 Tolkien passed the entrance exam to King Edward’s Grammar School. Around this time the family moved to 214 Alcester Road near to Moseley village, where Tolkien encountered a very different kind of environment from Sarehole, but one which also left its mark upon his imagination. Five minutes’ walk from the Oratory stand two unlikely towers, one is a Victorian waterworks tower next to Edgbaston Reservoir; the other is a folly, a 96-feet tower of brick, built for no obvious purpose by John Perrott in 1758.The towers are said to have influenced “Minas Morgul” and “Minas Tirith” the “Two Towers of Gondor,” after which the second volume of “Lord of the Rings” is named. 

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