I grew up in South Birmingham – and so have always been vaguely aware that Tolkien had grown up in the same area. I took the kids to Sarehole Mill over the summer and so learnt more about the connections there. My Grandmother (who used to live practically in the grounds of the mill) mentioned that she had a book about it, and so I borrowed it to read – and it’s brilliant!
It talks through JRR (Ronald to his friends)’s early life in the late 19th / early 20th century and the areas he lived in (totally my stomping ground as a child Sarehole / Hall Green / Kings Heath / Moseley) with historic photographs and maps – but it also cross references specific things to sections of his famous books. In a number of cases it prompted an ‘of course’ in recognition from me!
I also hadn’t realised his later connections with Edgbaston (aside from the fact I knew he was a King Edward School alumnus) or The Lickey Hills and Worcestershire area (which spookily also follows the path of where I lived as an adult!) If only he’d gone to Southampton Uni and not Oxford we could have been living parallel lives!!
- Who knew Tolkien drank in the Ivy Bush on the Hagley Road, or The Prince of Wales in Moseley village?
- Or that ‘Trittiford’ changed it’s name from Titterford for reasons of good taste in the 1920s?!
- Or that the Great Hall at the University of Birmingham (which our company has painted a number of times, and featured in the televised leadership debates of the last General Election campaign) was used as a hospital in the First World War?
This is great if you are a lover of Tolkien, or know the South Birmingham area – and if you fall into both categories – it’s really interesting!