Sarehole Mill

Sarehole Mill




Sarehole Mill is a Grade II listed water mill (in an area once called Sarehole) on the River Cole in Hall Green, Birmingham, England. It is now run as a museum by the Birmingham Museums Trust. It is known for its association with J. R. R. Tolkien and is one of only two working water mills in Birmingham, with the other being New Hall Mill in Walmley, Sutton Coldfield.

Built in 1542 on the site of a previous pool. It was once known as Bedell's or Biddle's Mill after the name of an early owner. In 1727 it was described as High Wheel Mill. As early as 1755, the mill was leased by Matthew Boulton, one of the pioneers of the Industrial Revolution and leading figure of the Lunar Society for scientific experimentation. It is believed he converted the machinery for use in metal working. As well as milling grain it has been used for grinding bones for fertiliser, metal rolling (Matthew Boulton) and wire drawing.

The current building dates from 1771 and was in use until 1919. Thereafter it fell into a state of disrepair and dereliction. A local community campaign to save the mill was launched when demolition was mooted, and was finally successful with the mill being restored in 1969. Sarehole Mill is open from Easter to the end of October, 12:00 till 16:00 every day except Monday unless Monday is a national holiday in which case it is open, entry £3.00, children under 16 free. In April 2012 the mill pond was drained to repair the sluice gates, and in the winter of 2012–13 the heavily silted mill pond was dredged.

In 2012/2013 Sarehole Mill underwent a £375,000 overhaul of the roof, chimney, millpond, water wheel and machinery were restored to produce flour again. A newly constructed outdoor bread oven is used regularly to bake bread using the flour ground on site. Sarehole Mill has a team of 10 volunteer millers, 15 volunteer gardeners and eight volunteer guides. Millers are at work every Wednesday and Sunday if there is enough water. Sarehole Mill produces wholemeal flour which is sold in the mill shop. The flour is also used by local restaurants and bakers.

** – Steam Engine – **

In 1852 the water wheels at Sarehole Mill were supplemented by a single cylinder steam engine. Although water would have been the primary energy source powering the mill, the addition of a steam engine would have ensured uninterrupted operation of the mill. Unfortunately the original steam engine was at some point removed, the current engine is of similar size and capacity, being a single cylinder table engine of 16 hp (12 kW), albeit currently in a non-functioning state and of unknown manufacturer.

The current engine was installed as part of the restoration of the mill in 1975. It was formerly used by a sweet manufacturer, Smith Kendon Ltd, at their factories in England and Messina, Italy, where it was used up until 1948. It was donated to the Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry in 1952 before being moved to Sarehole.

** – J R R Tolkien – **

J. R. R. Tolkien lived within 300 yards of the mill at around the turn of century, between the ages four and eight, and would have seen it from his house. The locale at that time was rural Worcestershire farmland and countryside. He has also said that he used the mill as a location in The Lord of the Rings, for the Mill at Hobbiton. In an interview with Guardian journalist, John Ezard in 1966, before the mill's restoration, Tolkien said:

  • "It was a kind of lost paradise... There was an old mill that really did grind corn with two millers, a great big pond with swans on it, a sandpit, a wonderful dell with flowers, a few old-fashioned village houses and, further away, a stream with another mill. I always knew it would go – and it did."
  • The grounds nearby host the annual Tolkien Weekend event that celebrates the life and works of Tolkien. The mill is part of the Shire Country Park.

    Explore Sarehole Mill’s links with Tolkien. Signposts to Middle-Earth is a family-friendly exhibition which explores the connections of JRR Tolkien with Sarehole Mill and the surrounding area. The Mill is part of the Tolkien Trail, which follows the childhood footsteps of the author and the places that influenced his writing. Download the Tolkien Trail leaflet here.




    ** – Visiting – **

    You may click here to download or view the Access Statement (PDF) for Sarehole Mill to help you to plan for your visit.

    The ground floor of the Mill where the waterwheel gears and flour bins are located, the miller's house, the granary and the bakehouse are fully accessible to visitors with mobility difficulties.

  • Guide and Assistance dogs are very welcome within the Mill and grounds.
  • There are accessible toilets off the stable block where baby changing facilities can also be found.
  • If you require a chair during your visit please ask a member of staff who would be happy to help.
  • Social Stories are guides which aim to prepare individuals with autism for social situations by letting them know what to expect. Click here to download or view the Family Social Story for a visit to Sarehole Mill.

    ** – Facilities – **

  • Bike Racks.
  • Shop.
  • Tea room.
  • Baby Changing in ladies toilets.
  • The closest train station is Hall Green Station (10 minutes walk away). Turn left onto Stratford Rd, then right at large crossing onto Cole Bank Rd. Entrance to the mill is located on the right hand side of Cole Bank Rd.

    Number 5 bus from Birmingham City Centre or circular bus 11A / 11C (alight at Sarehole Mill, Cole Bank Road bus stop). Bus services are operated by National Express West Midlands.


    Location : Sarehole Mill, Cole Bank Road, Birmingham, B13 0BD

    Transport: Hall Green (National Rail) then 10 minutes (see above). Bus routes: 5 or 11A/11C stop close by (see above)

    Opening Times: Wednesday – Sunday (and bank holiday Mondays), 11:00 - 16:00 (13th April – 3rd November)

    Opening Times: During Birmingham school holidays the mill is open Tuesday - Sunday, 11:00 - 16:00.

    Tickets : Adult £6.00;   Concessions £4.00;   Children (3-15) £3.00

    Tel: 0121 3488160