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Sarehole Mill and J R R Tolkien

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by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)
Freelance writer living in Melbourne. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe to my articles. I try to find fun, rewarding and usually free adventures for you in your home town.
Published September 25th 2013
The setting that inspired Tolkien
Sarehole Mill Facebook


When I think of mills and literature (which is not very often) I always think of George Elliot's famous work Mill on the Floss but she was not the only writer to be inspired by a mill setting.

J.R.R. Tolkien was also similarly inspired.

The famous fantasy author was born in South Africa in 1892 but his family moved to Birmingham in 1896 and lived close to Sarehole Mill for four years.

The 1750 building, which was then in the countryside, was a drawcard to Tolkien and his brother who spent many happy hours playing there. Although there were times when they were discovered by the miller's son who chased them away.

The striking setting provided Tolkien with the inspiration for Hobbitton and The Shire in his books The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

In fact he was so touched by the place he even contributed to the restoration of the Mill in the 1960s.

Today Sarehole Mill is one of of the few surviving working watermills in the region. Hemmed in by suburbia it still has a tranquil county atmosphere as there are large grounds and the huge pond is a haven for birdlife including kingfishers, mallards, moorhens and herons.

sarehole mill jj j tolkien
The mill as it was in 1895


A recent £450,000 restoration brought the pond back to life , provided new millstones and milling furniture, and restored the Victorian bakehouse.

It has meant the site can return to its former glory as a working watermill.

The old mill not only grinds wheat and sells flour but volunteers also demonstrate traditional bread making. The original 1850s oven is so large it can still bake 60 loaves of bread in one batch.

Milling sessions only take place on Wednesdays and Sundays and it is always worth phoning in advance to check water levels for operation.

Tolkien fans can view the exhibition Signposts to Middle-Earth which explores Tolkien's connections to Sarehole Mill and the surrounding area.

The Mill is part of the Tolkien Trail, which follows in the childhood footsteps of the author and the places that influenced his writing.

Kids can kick a ball on the field, have adventure near the small stream that runs through the spacious property and even hire nets to go dipping for mini beasts in the pond.

You never know perhaps it might even spark their imaginations to write the great fantasy novels of the future. It certainly worked for one little boy.

Image from Wikipedia


To see what the mill looks like there is an excellent panorama view of it here.
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Why? To enjoy the scene that inspired Tolkien
When: Opening Times: Tuesday to Sunday 12pm-4pm. Closed Mondays (except Bank Holidays). Open Saturday 30 March - Sunday 3 November 2013.
Phone: 44 (0)121 777 6612
Where: Sarehole Mill Cole Bank Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, B13 0BD
Cost: Charges apply to mill only. Grounds and visitor facilities are free to all visitors. Adults £3 Concessions £2 Under 16s FREE. There is also Free entry on the first Sunday of the month.
Your Comment
Hi Bryony isn't it interesting how childhood play scenes can have such a profound impact on writers' imaginations. Cheers Nadine.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|4369) 1364 days ago
I never knew Tolkien lived in Birmingham; interesting article, Nadine.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|11277) 1364 days ago
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