Tolkien Tour of England

Professor J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for his fantasy books The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, two works which are as reflective of Tolkien himself as they are of the country in which they were written. Tolkien spent his youth in Birmingham, England and later moved to Oxford, where he spent most of his life. He also spent time in Yorkshire and Bournemouth. The countryside’s influence on the books is clear, which makes traveling through Tolkien’s England almost like a tour through the books through themselves.

The first place to start the tour is in Birmingham, Tolkien’s stomping grounds as a young boy. His family lived in a modest home in a township called Sarehole at 264 Wake Green. From his bedroom windows he could see the two most famous towers of Birmingham, the 96 ft. Perrott’s Folly and the tower of Edgbaston Waterworks. These towers eventually played major roles as the towers of Orthanc and Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings. Perrott’s Folly is currently closed for renovations, but will hopefully be open to the public in a few years. The second tower is part of the factory at Edgbaston Waterworks, which was a water processing plant.

Perrott's Folly

In Tolkien’s lifetime, plumes of black smoke would have bellowed from this tower, making it look sinister and providing a perfect example of what Orthanc looked like under the guard of Saruman. Other sites in Birmingham provided examples for the Shire, such as Sarehole Mill which Tolkien himself described as the inspiration for Ted Sandyman’s mill in Hobbiton. The Moseley Bog, which Tolkien and his younger brother played in, was an inspiration for the Old Forest, a dark, deep wood where the trees appear to watch intruders.  Both the mill and the bog are open to the public and there is no charge to visit them.

sarehole mill

Next up on the Tolkien itinerary is Warwick, which is where Tolkien married his life-long love Edith Mary Bratt when he was 21. Warwick is thought to have provided the inspiration for the Nordic-style of Edoras, the capital of the land of Rohan in the second volume of the Lord of the Rings. The Nordic influence on the architecture can be seen most prominently in the famous Warwick castle, which was built in 1068. The turrets and stone walls of the castle are also reminiscent of the faded grandeur described in Minas Tirith.  Prices to visit the Warwick castle range from £15 and up.

Edoras from LOTR

Tolkien spent the earliest days of his marriage living in the small village of Roos, just outside of Kingston Upon Hull in Yorkshire. One of the most famous stories that came from this era of Tolkien’s life describes a pleasant summer’s day when he and Edith went out for a picnic and she sang and danced for him in a meadow. This became one of his most famous poems called The Lay of Lúthien. The wild Yorkshire moors and ethereal forests inspired the Elven parts of Middle-Earth, like Lothlórien and Rivendell. The city of York, which is famous for its walls and cathedral, became the inspiration for Minas Tirith. Bree, the town where the hobbits are supposed to meet Gandalf, seems as though it is lifted directly from the Shambles, one of the oldest parts of the city of York. The York minster, one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in England, costs £9.00 to enter.

Minas Tirith

Oxford was the city where Tolkien spent most of his life, both as a student and a teacher. He studied at Exeter College in the English department and returned as a professor to Pembroke College as the head of the department of Anglo-Saxon. He later worked at Merton College as a professor of English Literature. Pembroke College is not open to visitors, but Merton College is only £2 to enter and also has access to the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in the world. His life in Oxford was primarily dedicated to teaching and to his children. It was during his time at Pembroke that the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were published.

The house where he lived with his family, located at 20 Northmoor Road, is now a historical site that visitors can enter. The Eagle and Child, a pub made famous by Tolkien and his group of literary friends like C.S. Lewis, is still open and serves a famous Sunday lunch. Both Tolkien and his wife are buried in the Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford, with the names Lúthien and Beren engraved on their headstones.

Finally, the Tolkiens retired to Bournemouth where they lived until Edith died at the age of 81. In Bournemouth, they lived on Lakeside Avenue near Branksome Chine. Some of the historical sites that Tolkien often visited were the Bournemouth Pier and Beach as well as Branksome Park. The Tolkiens also visited the Bournemouth Pleasure Gardens quite often. These lovely gardens are situated near the pier and feature several exotic plants.

Tolkien’s Middle-Earth is often lauded for being so detailed that it feels like a real place. Part of the reason is because Tolkien used places and landmarks from his real life, which makes visiting these sites in England an essential part of the experience for any Lord of the Rings fan. As the professor himself said, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Written by the marketing department for Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer, Paul Lee

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