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Tolkien experience - Birmingham (Outside City) trail

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Start your trail HERE. (VIEW ON MAP)


Perrotts Folly

Whilst living in Edgbaston the young J.R.R. Tolkien would have been very familiar with two distinctive local landmarks. The extraordinary 96ft (30m) Perrott’s Folly is named after John Perrott who had it built in 1758. The crenelated gothick tower was originally part of a hunting lodge. In the 19th century it became one of the first weather recording stations in the country.

Along the road at Edgbaston Waterworks stands a later Victorian chimney tower. The tower was part of a complex of buildings designed by J H Chamberlain and William Martin around 1870.

The pair are said to have suggested Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith, the Two Towers of Gondor, after which the second volume of The Lord of the Rings is named. The Tolkien brothers lived with their aunt in nearby Stirling Road between 1904 and 1908.

The Two Towers

See more on Perrott's Folly and the Edgbaston Waterworks Tower here.

BACK TO MAP.  A short walk to Newman's Oratory on the Hagley Road. 


Newman's Oratory

When Tolkien’s mother converted to Catholicism in 1900, the family worshipped at St Anne’s Church in Alcester Street, Digbeth. After moving to Edgbaston in 1902, Mabel and the boys attended Cardinal Newman’s Oratory on the Hagley Road. The family lived nearby in Oliver Road and, for a time, Ronald was enrolled at St Phillip’s School, at that time located in the same street. The friendship of Father Francis Xavier Morgan, who became the boys’ guardian, was a source of strength during Mabel’s illness and subsequent death.

Birmingham Oratory

See more on Newman's Oratory here.

BACK TO MAP. now take a short walk to the Plough & Harrow Hotel on Hagley Road.


Plough & Harrow Hotel

Whilst living in lodgings in Duchess Road, Tolkien had met and fallen in love with nineteen year old Edith Bratt. He was only sixteen at the time and his guardian Father Morgan attempted to put an end to the relationship by moving the two boys to Highfield Road. It was Tolkien’s last Birmingham address. In 1913, aged 21, and whilst still at Exeter College in Oxford, Tolkien re-established contact with Edith and their romance was rekindled. They were married in the Spring of 1916 in Warwick and in June of that year spent a night in Birmingham at the Plough & Harrow Hotel. Ronald was most likely on embarkation leave prior to his departing for France as an officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers. There is a blue plaque here, which was presented by the Tolkien Society in 1997.

Plough & Harrow

BACK TO MAP.  Now take a short walk to one of Tolkien's homes on Highfield Road. 


Highfield Road (One of Tolkien's homes)

From 1910 to 1911 Tolkien lived at 4 Highfield Road. It is now a nursery. The houses at 3 & 4 Highfield Road are a Grade II listed building and was built in 1830. It was a semi-detached late Regency stucco villa. There is a blue plaque here from the Birmingham Civic Society and the Tolkien Society. He previously lived from 1902 until 1910 at Duchess Place in Ladywood. On Teleperformance House which was on Hagley Road, there is another blue plaque marking near where he lived at the time.

4 Highfield Road

BACK TO MAP. Now walk or cycle to Moseley Bog (approx. 40 mins) or take the no 1 bus (Calthorpe Road, Edgbaston to Wake Green Road, Moseley). 


Moseley Bog

Tolkien later lamented the encroachment of the suburbs upon his former home but there is one place that ‘civilisation’ missed: Moseley Bog. The Bog was an ideal place for Tolkien’s childhood adventures. It was once a storage pool for Sarehole Mill, and is also the site of two Bronze Age ‘burnt mounds’. The Bog is recalled in Tolkien’s description of the ‘Old Forest’, last of the primeval wild woods, where ‘Tom Bombadil’ lived. It is now preserved as a Local Nature Reserve managed by the Birmingham & Black Country Wildlife Trust. 

Moseley Bog

See more on Moseley Bog here.

BACK TO MAP.  Then walk or cycle to another of Tolkien's homes at 264 Wake Green Road. 


Wake Green Road (Another of Tolkien's homes)

In 1896 the Tolkien family moved to 5 Gracewell Cottages (now 264 Wake Green Road) in the hamlet of Sarehole. At the time the area was completely rural and Tolkien said that the times he spent here were the happiest years of his youth. Sarehole is said to have been the model for “The Shire”, the home of the Hobbits, and memories of this country childhood were to colour much of his later writing. 

264 Wake Green Road

See more on the Sarehole area here.

BACK TO MAP. Then walk or cycle to Shire Country Park.  


Shire Country Park

The Shire Country Park follows the attractive and varied valley of the River Cole as a green ribbon for some four miles from Small Heath to Yardley Wood. It was named in 2005 to reflect Tolkien’s links with the local area. The park contains wetland, grassland, woodland and heath, and supports a wealth of animal, plant and insect life. Herons, mallards and moorhens are a common sight, and if you are lucky you may spot a kingfisher hunting for fish along the meandering river. The ford at Green Road (formerly Green Lane) is one of the few remaining fords along the Cole Valley and would have been very familiar to the young J.R.R. Tolkien.

Green Road ford

See more on Shire Country Park here.

BACK TO MAP.  Now on to the finish of the trail at Sarehole Mill in Hall Green. 


Sarehole Mill 

Ronald and his brother Hilary spent many hours exploring the grounds of Sarehole Mill and being chased off by the miller’s son, whom they nicknamed the ‘White Ogre’. In the 1960s Tolkien contributed to the public appeal to restore the Mill as a museum. Today Sarehole Mill is part of Birmingham Museums Trust. As well as being a working watermill, the museum features the Signposts to Middle Earth exhibition which tells the story of Tolkien’s connections with Sarehole and the surrounding area.

Sarehole Mill

See more on Sarehole Mill here.

We do hope you enjoyed this trail. 


Photos by Elliott Brown unless stated above.

Google MapsMap of Ladywood from Googles Maps

Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.3.0 Contains OS data © Crown copyright and database right