Book Review – The Roots of Tolkien’s Middle Earth by Robert S Blackham

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!

TolkienIt 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!

On the Tolkien Trail……….

As the front of my blog says, I am a Brummie Mummy and my husband is a proud Brummie too!   In fact when we had to complete the forms to get married in St Lucia we had to fill in the place of birth of our parents:

Birmingham, Birmingham, Birmingham, Birmingham.

Our 3 daughters all have Birmingham on their birth certificates – but our son has Redditch.  We’re hoping this doesn’t cause him a complex in later life!

A decade ago we moved to a village just outside the sprawl of England’s second city (in fact, my parents used to come on Sunday school outings here when they were kids as it was the ‘countryside’)  – but we’re still within striking distance (and sometimes hearing distance depending on the direction of the wind) of the motorway network and thus the infamous spaghetti junction and can be in ‘town’ within half an hour.

This gives us a wealth of places to visit within an hour of leaving the house – but often you don’t take advantage of what’s right on the doorstep.

Last week we went to Sarehole Mill – and all 4 kids enjoyed it (this is a feat in itself!).  The older ones enjoyed learning about Tolkien who lived nearby as a child and there was plenty to keep the little 2 entertained (fishing game, brass rubbings) And, the favourite thing for them all, was watching the water mill in action.  The mill is operational on Wednesdays and Sundays through the summer – and it definitely adds to the experience. It’s free for the kids to get in, and was £3 for me.  There were also craft activities for a small charge on Wednesday – and so the kids all made farm animals!! We had lunch across the road at ‘The Hungry Hobbit’ (a friendly greasy spoon, with great bacon sandwiches and scrambled egg or beans on toast) – although we could have had cake at the mill itself.

Sarehole Mill 1 Sarehole Mill 2

There are other Tolkien sites to visit in and around the city on the Tolkien Trail – so they’re also on the hit list for the holidays.  Given the big 2 have read the books and seen the films, it helps bring it all even more to life. Now – if we could just plan a trip to New Zealand to see where the films were made……………