At three years old Tolkien came to Birmingham with his mother and brother Hilary to visit his grand parents, it was at this time that Tolkiens father died and his mother saw no reason to return to South Africa. so the family settled in the area of Sarehole, Birmingham.
Tolkien explored as a young boy, the most exciting thing he found was Sarehole Mill, Birmingham's only surviving watermill. Tolkien and his brother spent many hours investigating the mill and surrounding areas, when in later years the Mill fell into decay Tolkien contributed to fund its preservation.
Tolkien attended King Edwards School in New Street, Birmingham where developed a love of languages and story telling. The journey to school was very long and eventually the family had to move closer to a tram route to the city centre. Tolkiens rural surrounding were now changed to what he described as encroachment of civilisation, with trams, cars and noise. Tolkien explored the surroundings of his new home and found a place that civilisation had missed and that was the mysterious Moseley Bog. This pond was once used as an emergency supply of water for nearby Sarehole Mill, Tolkien and his brother were always found around this area and were always being chased away by the local miller, he was always covered in white dust and the boys described him as the white Orge.
Moseley Bog was nine hectares of dense damp woodland, and is understood to be the inspiration behind the 'Old Forest', and the miller inspiration for 'Wizard Gandalf'.
In 1904 Tolkiens mother died and the two boys were sent to stay with an Aunt, in Sterling Road, off the main Hagley Road, where they remained for four years. Round the corner from this house were two towers one known as Perrott's Folly and the other a Victorian tower part of the Edgbaston waterworks, these towers are said the be the inspiration behind 'Minas Morgul' and 'Minas Tirith' from the second volume of the 'Lord of the Rings' called 'TwoTowers'. During his young life in Birmingham many influences, images and ideas triggered his imagination, and later appeared in his books.
At sixteen he was lodging in Duchess Road where he met his future wife, his guardian at the time felt he was too young for love moved him out to Highfield Road, Edgbaston to end his relationship with Edith, this was to be his last residence in Birmingham as he had won an exhibition to Exeter College, Oxford to study classics. He went to Oxford University in 1911 and this apart from army service and a short time lecturing in Leeds Oxford is where he and Edith settled for the rest of their lives.