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Tolkien Trail (VirtualBrum)


Tolkien Weekend 2005 

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on 3 January 1892. Both his parents were Birmingham people but had left their native city to seek a new life in South Africa. His father worked as a bank clerk.

9 Ashfield Road


9 Ashfield Road is the second house. It's Victorian appearance has been completeley ruined on the ground floor by an extension and satelite dish

Three years later, Mabel Tolkien took her two sons, Ronald and Hilary, back to Birmingham to see their grandparents for the first time. It was at the home of the grandparents, at 9 Ashfield Road in Kings Heath, that Mabel Tolkien received a telegram announcing the tragic news that her husband had suffered a severe haemorrhage and was dead.


With no reason to return to South Africa, Mabel and her sons settled in Birmingham, in the small hamlet of Sarehole.


264 Wake Green Road


Tolkien often said that the happiest years of his childhood were those he spent in Sarehole. His mother moved there shortly after the house was built in 1896, when it was known as 5 Gracewell. The tiny village of Sarehole is said to have been the model for The Shire, the home of the hobbits. 264bwakegreen.jpg (46747 bytes)


Sarehole Mill
Sarehole Mill The most exciting thing for a young boy to see in the village was Sarehole Mill in Cole Bank Road, Hall Green. It is still there today and proclaims itself as Birmingham's only surviving watermill. Ronald and his brother spent many an hour investigating the mill and being chased off by the miller's son, whom they nicknamed the "White Ogre". There had been a mill on this stretch of the River Cole since the Middle Ages, though the present buildings date from 1768.
When the mill fell into decay, Tolkien contributed to the fund to preserve it. It is now run as a museum by Birmingham City Museums. The mill is open from daily, 2 - 5pm, late April to October. Entrance is free
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Blade Grinder Sarehole Mill


King Edward's School

King Edwards School c1930 King Edward's School, New Street. It was here that the young boy's love of languages was allowed to flourish and grow.
The rich Victorian Gothic buildings stood in New Street, at the heart of the city centre near to the entrance to New Street Station and the Odeon Cinema. 

Click to read(A blue plaque marks the site).

King Edwards House. New Street 29-Aug-2001


Moseley Bog

Mosely Bog Pond Once Ronald had entered King Edward's School in Birmingham, it was necessary for the family to move closer to a tram-route to town. His rural idyll was over, but his memories of it coloured much of his later writing. In later life, Tolkien often lamented the encroachment of civilisation, with its trams and houses and motor cars, upon his former home in the countryside. But there was one place that civilisation missed, the mysterious world of Moseley Bog.
The pond dates from the 16th century and was once used as an emergency supply of water for nearby Sarehole Mill - a wise precaution in the circumstances, as the narrow, sluggish River Cole doesn't really look capable of pushing a mill wheel.

Tolkien and his brother, Hillary, were regularly chased away by the miller, George Andrew. Covered in white dust as he was, he became known to them as the White Ogre - an unlikely antecedent for the wizard Gandalf.

Fallen tree in Moseley Bog
Relections stream The bog's nine hectares of dense, damp woodland are widely understood to be the inspiration for the Old Forest, home of Tom Bombadil. As one of the Hobbits observes in The Fellowship of the Ring: "They do say the trees can actually move, and can surround strangers and hem them in." But he does concede that this phenomenon is more likely to happen after dark.
The Bog is now preserved as a Nature Reserve by Birmingham City Council.

More photographs

After leaving Sarehole, the family lived briefly at 214 Alcester Road, near Moseley village. It was once a fire-station.


St Anne's Catholic Church

stannes.jpg (58539 bytes)

Around the time that Tolkien entered King Edward's School, Mabel Tolkien and her sister May Incledon turned to Catholicism. This caused much opposition from their relations who were ardent Baptists.

It was to St Anne's Catholic Church in Alcester Street that she and her sons traveled to worship, from their home in Moseley. The church was a new one, having been built in 1884 to replace Cardinal Newman's original chapel. Tolkien was to remain a catholic for the rest of his life, the faith he associated so strongly with his mother.



86 Westfield Road


After Moseley the family returned to Kings Heath and lived at 86 Westfield Road. But they were soon on the move again to a house in Oliver Road, now demolished.

Westfield Road, Kings Heath

To save money Mabel moved her two boys to the nearby St Philips's Grammar School. However Ronald Tolkien was to resume his studies at King Edward's the following year after winning a Foundation Scholarship.



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Adapted from a leaflet, The Tolkien Discovery Trail, now out of print, written by Chris Upton
and published by Birmingham City Council in 1992. 
All colour photographs on this page taken August 2001 copyright www.birminghameconomy.org.uk




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