Sarehole Mill

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"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
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Sarehole Mill
Sarehole Mill.jpg
Sarehole Mill
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"Though a Tolkien by name, I am a Suffield by tastes, talents, and upbringing, and any corner of that county [Worcestershire] (however fair or squalid) is in an indefinable way 'home' to me, as no other part of the world is."
Letter 44

The Sarehole Mill standing on the Cole Bank Road, is a fine example of one of more than fifty water mills that existed in Birmingham at one time.[1]

History of the Mill[edit | edit source]

Sarehole Mill was built in 1765 on the site of an even older mill, Biddle's Mill, which dated back to 1540. Sarehole was used mostly to grind corn. Matthew Boulton's father rented the Mill and Sarehole farm in 1756. When his father died, Boulton used the Mill for making buttons and for metal rolling until he moved his operations to Handsworth in 1761. In the late 1890s Sarehole was the childhood haunt of J.R.R. Tolkien and his brother, and famously used as inspiration for the Shire.

Tolkien and the Mill[edit | edit source]

The millers, George Andrew senior and junior (the "White Ogre") can be seen (taken in 1890).

In 1896 Mabel Suffield settled with her children at 5 Gracewell (now 264 Wake Green Road), a cottage in Sarehole village. It was only four miles from the centre of Birmingham but it was then still set within the north Worcestershire countryside. Coming from the hot dry landscape of South Africa, the green fields and woods made a vivid impression on Tolkien.

The Tolkien boys had nicknamed the younger miller "White Ogre" because of his white dusty face. Whenever they picked blackberries, they had to walk a very narrow path through the miller's field ("the White Ogre's land"), accidentally traipsing off after corncockles and other stuff, angering the owner.[2]

Hobbiton by JRR Tolkien

Sarehole was the model for the Shire, home of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. As for the Sarehole Mill it was the inspiration for the Old Mill. Tolkien based the bad-tempered Ted Sandyman (the miller) in The Lord of the Rings.

When Tolkien visited Birmingham with his family in 1933 he lamented the changes in Sarehole, as Birmingham had continued to grow until Sarehole was but a suburb in the huge city. In 1933, much of the area was still farmland, but there were many more houses and gardens.

Tolkien subscribed to an appeal for the restoration of the Mill, and by 2005 it is a branch of the city Museums and Art Gallery.[1] The Mill is open to the public from April to October and for school parties throughout the year.


External Links[edit | edit source]