Sarehole Mill was an inspiration for locations and events in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The mill and the area around it inspired The Shire as well as Sandyman’s Old Mill. Tolkien has written in a letter:
“As for knowing Sarehole Mill, it dominated my childhood. I lived in a small cottage almost immediately beside it, and the old miller of my day and his son were characters of wonder and terror to a small child.”
In the 1960’s Tolkien made a donation to fund its restoration after years of disuse and wear. In 1969, it opened again to the public. Tolkien also has said in regards to The Shire and Sarehole Mill:
“[The Shire] is in fact more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee – that is as far away as the Third Age from that depressing and perfectly characterless straggle of houses north of old Oxford, which has not even a postal existence.”
The Mill recently got funding by The H.B. Allen Charitable Trust to restore it to full working order. It was originally constructed in the 18th century, so this was no small feat. However, in 2018 flooding damaged the watermill. It now makes an appeal to the public via crowdfunding to make the wheel work again. At the mill, they are able to use the wheel to produce stoneground flour and bake bread on site. This would be available to the locals of the area and visitors.
The fan’s love for The Shire and all of the works of Tolkien has made this a site of significance. If Tolkien had not grown up by that mill, perhaps we wouldn’t have The Shire like we do today or even Hobbits. While preserving this site is great for its cultural impact, in New Zealand, there is also a fully built replica of The Shire from Peter Jackson’s movies that are open to the public.