JRR Tolkien was, by all accounts, a lovely bloke. His books might be badly-written overlong prose in need of an editor which gave birth to an era of badly written, overlong “high-fantasy” sagas, but as a human being he was, from what I can tell, beyond much reproach.
Tolkien, as anyone who’s read a ‘Birmingham’s dead interesting and that’ article can tell you, came from Birmingham and, because he’s dead famous, people in Birmingham will, on occasion, embrace this figure from our history and celebrate his roots.
I’m here to explain why people who love Birmingham should not celebrate JRR Tolkien’s residency in our land. In fact we should do the opposite: ignore the hell out of him and his deluded fans.
Continue reading “12 reasons why Birmingham should banish Tolkien”
Discovering The Towers and Turrets of Birmingham
On my regular rambles through Moseley it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer number of towers, turrets and fortifications on the large houses here. These were once the homes of wealthy professionals and their design and decoration is intended to suggest the nobility of medieval times. A man’s home is his castle – it’s an ancient sentiment that in its earliest form predates even castles (from the Roman philosopher Cicero). Adding a tower and decorative crenellations to your home provides prestige and sense of security. I wish I lived in one, and that’s the point.
I became interested in the language of the towers: the distinction between towers and turrets, and the world of associated features. These include belvederes, gazebos, kiosks, pagodas, orioles, domes and follies. Birmingham has two very famous towers: the Tolkien-inspiring Waterworks tower and the mysterious Perrot’s Folly in Edgbaston. But it has many others and here I want to round up some of the best examples in the form of a walking tour. Many, I feel, are unjustly overlooked. You can illustrate the walk with your memories of these places, follow (most of) it on street view or actually walk the walk.
The tour begins in St Philips Cathedral, outside the east porch. Here, an Aberdeen granite obelisk commemorates Henry Buck, faithful secretary to the Birmingham branch Manchester Order of the Oddfellows – a local friendly society. There are several impressive obelisks in the grounds, the tallest of which commemorates Frederick Gustavus Burnaby. Burnaby was a Victorian soldier and adventurer will a brilliant career – but one with no known connection to Birmingham. Obelisks are ancient; much earlier than any spire, tower or tall building – they are the original skyscraper. The tapered shape represents descending sun rays, thus the implied movement is downwards rather than upwards. Some obelisks were purely utilitarian, forming the shadow hand of a large sundial.
Continue reading “Tower records”