Friday, 22 June 2012
On the Trail of Tolkien Part 2 - The Two Towers
I happened to be near the Edgbaston part of Birmingham on Monday morning so I decided I'd go along and have a look at the two towers that it has been suggested, (though I have to say not proven!), may have given J R R Tolkien inspiration for "Minas Morgul" and "Minas Tirith" - the Two Towers after which the second volume of Lord of the Rings is named.
The two towers in Edgbaston are Perrott's Folly and a nearby Victorian tower which is part of Edgbaston Water Works. Tolkien would have seen these towers on a regular basis as for while in the early 1900's he lived nearby for a time in Stirling Road and also Oliver Road, he attended the Oratory following his mother's conversion to Catholicism and also visited a local pub "The Ivy Bush".
This tower is 96 feet (30 metres) tall and is named after John Perrott who built it in 1758. This gothic tower contains 7 rooms and there are 139 spiral steps.
Over the years it has been used for many purposes, for example, a country hunting retreat and a weather station.
Today there is a medical practice on one side and a car park on the other!
It is a Grade 2 listed building and is, sadly, in need of restoration. I believe it is now owned by the Trident House Association. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public on a day to day basis and this little garden was overgrown and the entry shut and padlocked.
Apparently the door from the top room onto the tower roof is only 3 feet high - hobbit height!
The other tower is Edgbaston Waterworks Tower - which is in fact a chimney!
A not so romantic view showing the entrance to the waterworks in the foreground
I stopped off at the Oratory (I was running out of time by now so this is just a poor view of the side of the building). Mabel Tolkien (Ronald's mother) together with her sons attended here when they lived nearby. A Father Francis Xavier Morgan became the boys' guardian and helped the family and offered support during Mabel's illness and subsequent death.
I ought perhaps to mention that, although Tolkien lived in Birmingham from 1896 to 1911, in later life he lived in various other parts of England - Leeds and Oxford and also fought at the Battle of the Somme in France, so I am sure there are claims from many other places to have inspired Tolkien in his writings.