chapter  3
16 Pages

The Two Towers

When J.R.R. Tolkien lived in Kings Heath in south Birmingham as a child at the turn of the twentieth century, he would make his way every Sunday to attend mass at St Anne’s Roman Catholic Church in Highgate. He would clearly have passed, and would therefore have known very well, one of the two towers that I wish to focus on in this chapter, that of St Alban’s Anglican Church on Conybere Street. The other tower, the minaret of the Birmingham Central Mosque, was not to be completed until some 13 years after Tolkien’s death. The image of the two towers, however, is an interesting one when the attitude to religious buildings in the Highgate area is explored. These two towers clearly dominate the landscape, and both were clearly designed to do so (Pollock 1890, Gale 2004), but the tensions between them, and the wariness of many in the population towards both of them, captures something of the image from Tolkien’s most famous work.