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In 1777, a certain Joseph Heely of Birmingham published a guide book to the three great West Midland gardens of the mid-18th century with a very long-winded title—Letters on the Beauties of Hagley, Envil and The Leasowes with critical remarks and Observations on the Modern Taste in Gardening. In the book Healey describes an incident where he was walking along the edge of a cliff when he was caught in a thunderstorm. Healey scanned the area for a shelter and noticed some smoke rising out of a cleft in the rocks. He hurried towards the direction and was pleasantly surprised to discover a couple of houses carved by the side of the mountain. Healey was cordially welcomed into one of the houses which he describes as “curious, warm and commodious”. He went on to describe how they were well furnished with plenty of provisions and had access to water. The inhabitants, he noted, were decent people who were proud of their houses and were happy to explain to him at length how they had labored to build them.

This was the first written account of the Rock Houses of Kinver. More than a century later these same houses would inspire J. R. R. Tolkien to write one of the most beloved and delightful children’s tale, The Hobbits.

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Photo credit: Andrew Whitman/Flickr

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