Sarehole Mill

Research by the Local History Team at King's Norton Boys School

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This box was discovered in recent months in the grounds of Sarehole Mill, next to the pond by the mill. It is still unclear why the box was buried and why the items inside were put there. It was found containing a hand drawn map of the mill, a letter of complaint, a toy train, a postcard, a fantasy map, and a pocket watch. They all seem to be connected with one man

 

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings...

We have also uncovered a radio broadcast from the Second World War, which features an interview with George Andrew - the miller who lived at Sarehole Mill when Tolkien was a boy.

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Postcard by Tolkien

This is a postcard of an imaginary adventure the young Tolkien experienced when on a trip to the Malvern hills. In it, Tolkien enters a cave in the side of a hill, and walks over a bridge over a dark abyss inside the mountain.

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The picture on the card shows the town of Malvern from the hills.

 

The card was written to Father Francis Morgan at the Oratory.

 

It is believed to have been written in 1890, when Tolkien was 8 years old.

Drawing of Sarehole Mill

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This is a drawing of Sarehole Mill, believed to have been drawn by the young Tolkien brothers.

It depicts the mill as it was when they were young. 

Story written by the young Tolkien

As far as we can tell, this is a short story written by J.R.R Tolkien as a child.

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It tells a tale of ogres invading the peaceful "Green Shire," where rabbits live. This may have been inspiration, or some early ideas, for Tolkien’s stories of Middle Earth.

 

This can also be inferred from the names of the rabbits - Bilbo, Merry and Pippin; all names of hobbits that live in the Shire in Middle Earth.

Finally, the ogres that invade are called the White Ogre and the Black Ogre. These were nicknames Tolkien and his brother gave to the two millers working at Sarehole Mill.

Tolkien's toy train

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This train was a toy he got in 1892. Not much is known about it, except that it is a loco 3237.

Early drawing of Middle Earth

Another thing found inside of the box was a map that was drawn up by Tolkien as a child.

 

It has locations that feature in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit; but also places that appear in Tolkien’s short story about the "green shire rabbits."

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This tells us that Tolkien may have made up has own fantasy world with his brother, and could have drawn inspiration from this for the books he wrote later in life.

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Letter of Complaint

This letter of complaint appears to have been written by George Andrews, who owned the mill at the time when a young Tolkien lived nearby.

 

It was sent to Tolkien’s mother. It includes details of how troublesome Tolkien and his brother were to the miller in their youth.

 

Mr. Andrews claims that the boys have been running amok, trespassing on his property, ruining his flowerbeds, and wrecking his equipment. They are "disgraceful young hooligans with no regards for the rules or anything else for that matter."

In the latest incident, Mr. Andrews was chasing the boys away, when he tripped and broke his leg - and he blames the boys for this accident.

 

He ends his letter by saying, "the day your family leave Sarehole will be a very good day".

 

It is not known how or why this letter ended up buried in the grounds of Sarehole.

And finally...

We have uncovered this recording from the BBC Archives, dating from WWII, which features an interview with George Miller, in which he discusses the problems of the German bombing raids - and alludes to the troubles he used to have with the Tolkien boys... The recording includes an episode of the hit radio comedy,  ITDA - or, It's that Dog Again!

Interview with George Miller (BBC Archives)
00:00 / 04:45

Local History Team: James Mole; Evan Tew; William Hughes-Mccorkell; Mikael Mcgillivray-Bernard; Alistair Flemming;  Jacob Gayton-Kay; Jack Mills; Reuben Dalhouse; Dylan Gordon. Senior Researcher: T. O'Neill. 

You can find out more about Sarehole Mill and the Tolkien connection by following this link: https://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/sarehole

(DISCLAIMER: The events and documents on this page have been made up. Everything else, of course, is true.)

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