Visit Tolkien’s Birmingham (ca. 1890) via the British Library’s Flickr [31 Days of Tolkien]

In December 2013 the British Library released a million pictures into Flickr Commons, supported by the help of Microsoft, which are now available in the Public Domain. These pictures were mostly taken from books published in the 17, 18th and 19th century and one of those books could be of interest to you if you take an interest in J.R.R. Tolkien: “The Making of Birmingham: being a history of the rise and growth of the Midland metropolis” by Robert Kirkup Dent, published in 1894.

Flickr welcomed the British Library to their stream in a blog post on December 16th saying the library’s holdings contained ” 13 million books, 920,000 journal and newspaper titles, 57 million patents, 3 million sound recordings, and much, much more.” To me this one particular book was of special interest when I saw this picture:

This is the King Edward’s School building in Birmingham, built and decorated by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin (1833-1837) of Houses of Parliament fame, which unfortunately was demolished in 1937. This was the school J.R.R. Tolkien studied in, starting in 1900 and then -after a short stay at St Philips’ Grammar School- from 1903 until 1911. Yes, the book in question was published in 1894 and the pictures in it should possibly be from a year or two before publication but it should definitely give you an idea what a city Tolkien lived in.

The older building looked like this:

It is particularly hilarious to see that some buildings continue to exist, even after hundreds of years …

If you visited the city centre it would look like this:

One of the most important places in Tolkien’s youth isn’t found with the British Library’s flickr stream but someone else has uploaded this to flickr: Barrows’ Stores on Corporation Street, at the corner of Bull Street.

If you want to see all entries from this book please use this link. For an 1898 Birmingham city plan (you can zoom in) use this link.

Don’t forget – there are also other places like Sareholl Mill which are relevant to Tolkien’s youth but I thought I’d share this amazing stream with you – browse it, have a look, not only for Tolkien!

Marcel Aubron-Bülles

A Tolkien fan for thirty years (and more to come...) Founding chairman of the German Tolkien Society, Co-Founder of Ring*Con, Co-Founder of the ITF, host, presenter and fantasy expert