Restoration plans in the pipeline to open Tolkien landmark to the public (14.01.13 by Kerri Smith) - Comments

A landmark building in Birmingham which is thought to have provided inspiration for JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy will be restored and permanently opened to the public if enough money can be raised, its owners announced today.

Trident Reach the People Charity, which provides accommodation and support services for vulnerable people across the region, manages the Perrott's Folly tower in Edgbaston. It is thought to have been the inspiration for one of the Twin Towers in the trilogy as Tolkien lived nearby as a child.

Trident Reach will need to raise £1 million in order to restore the distinctive 18th Century building in Hagley Road, Edgbaston, which is one of Birmingham's oldest remaining architectural features.

The charity manages the dilapidated Grade II listed building, which is on the national "Buildings at Risk" register. It has has kick-started the Perrott's Folly restoration campaign by installing an "artist in residence" at the enchanted-looking 96ft tower.
the Perrott's Folly tower in Edgbaston


Once restoration work is complete, Trident Reach hopes to open the tower permanently – for the first time in more than 20 years – as a base for young artists and art exhibitions.

Artist Lizzy Jordan is planning to run a series of community art projects there over the next year to raise awareness of the building's "at risk" plight and help identify possible sources of funding to save the building.

The announcement that the tower could be permanently opened to the public comes as Tolkien fever once again grips the nation with the cinema release of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey', based on the much-loved novel which saw the beginning of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins' adventures. The news is sure to be welcomed by the Tolkien fans that have flocked to the region over recent years to visit the many Midlands locations linked with the author.

Benjamin Bradley, responsible for Perrott's Folly at Trident Reach the People Charity, said: "Perrott's Folly is an awe-inspiring structure which towers over the nearby suburbs.

"It is steeped in history and, as a model for the Twin Towers, is believed to be a key inspiration behind The Lord of the Rings – one of the best-loved stories of all time and a fantasy which has gripped the imagination of millions of people worldwide.

"Such an impressive landmark should be brought back into use for the community to safeguard its future and to allow the public – including Lord of the Rings fans – to enjoy it for many years to come."

Trident Reach provides a range of, care and support services – in residential settings and within the community – to help vulnerable people, including the homeless, young people, women fleeing domestic violence, people with disabilities and those with mental health issues.
Artists Naomi Wood (left) and Elizabeth Jordan inside the imposing Perrott's Folly tower in Edgbaston


History of Perrott's Folly

Perrott's Folly is one of Birmingham's oldest surviving architectural features. Eccentric landowner John Perrott, who lived in Belbroughton in Worcestershire, had the tower built in 1758 on the remains of a medieval hunting park – "parc de Rotton", now known as Rotton Park.

There are various theories as to why the tower was built, the most likely being that – in keeping with the fashions of the day – it was an elaborate hunting lodge where Perrott could entertain guests and survey his land.

It has also been suggested that it was a vantage point for Perrott to look at his wife's grave 15 miles away. Another more fanciful theory is that he used it to spy on his wife when he suspected her of having an affair with the gamekeeper.

In 1884, pioneering Birmingham glass-maker and meteorologist Abraham Follett Osler began using the building for weather observations. As the Edgbaston Observatory, it became part of one of the world's first regular weather forecasting services.

The University of Birmingham's geography department took over the running of the observatory until operations were transferred to its main campus in 1979, when Perrott's Folly fell into disuse.

In 1984 the Perrott's Folly Company was formed to renovate the tower and secured grants from English Heritage and Birmingham City Council. In 2005, the company worked with Birmingham Conservation Trust to carry out emergency repair work to stabilise the structure and save it from collapse.

The Perrott's Folly Company was wound up in 2009, when Trident Housing Association took on ownership of the building and it is now managed by Trident Reach the People Charity. The charity was formerly the care and support department within the housing association and remains part of the Trident group although is a stand-alone charity providing support services across the Midlands.

The Tolkien connection

Tolkien grew up in Birmingham and drew inspiration for his novels from local landmarks, including Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog.

He lived in Stirling Road as a young boy and would have passed Perrott's Folly and the neighbouring Edgbaston Waterworks tower on his way to and from school.

It is believed these two structures made such an impression on the young Tolkien that they inspired the Twin Towers described in his masterpiece, the Lord of the Rings.

The building

The striking Perrott's Folly is a seven-storey building with an octagonal base and a spiral staircase of 139 stone steps linking the single rooms on each floor.

Each room has a different shape and style, with the top floor ceiling featuring ornate Gothic plasterwork depicting country pursuits such as hunting and farming.


Photos show:

(1)  Artists (left to right) Elizabeth Jordan and Naomi Wood who are supporting Trident Reach the People Charity's drive to get Perrott's Folly (pictured) restored and opened to the public.
(2)  Artists Naomi Wood (left) and Elizabeth Jordan inside the imposing Perrott's Folly tower in Edgbaston.


Trident Reach the People Charity:

Trident Reach the People Charity was launched as a charity in October 2009, having previously been a Care and Support Department within Trident Housing. It is one of the leading social investment charities in the region, dedicated to supporting vulnerable individuals and the communities in which it works.

The charity has a ‘People First' ethos and assists the mentally ill, those with learning disabilities, young people at risk, elderly people, people fleeing domestic violence, teenage parents, young offenders, the homeless and refugees.

Trident Reach also provides life skills to disadvantaged young people plus housing advice and tenancy support to those needing accommodation. The overall aims of Reach are to support these groups of people to live independently and make a positive contribution to their communities by gaining the most possible control over their lives, enabling them to participate actively and equally within their community.

The charity's head office is in Oldbury, in the West Midlands, but it runs schemes and services across a number of regions – in Birmingham, Sandwell, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Shropshire, Derbyshire, Coventry and Worcester.

For further information please contact Michelle Pearson, of Word Association, on michelle@wordassociation.co.uk


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