British artist creates amazingly detailed Lord of the Rings-style maps of West Midlands and Shropshire

A small Black Country section of the broader West Midlands map by Chris Birse.
A small Black Country section of the broader West Midlands map by Chris Birse.

He was very pleased with the results and Chris’ career as a mapmaker could have ended there. But it didn’t.

“For a little fun” Chris decided to draw a map in the same Lord of the Rings style for his own region – Teesside.

When it got a “really positive response” online, there was only one way to go. Things “swirled” and he embarked on an impressive quest to create Tolkien-esque maps of every region of the country, including the West Midlands – with a small but impressive stretch of Black Country – and Shropshire.

Since then, he has been able to quit his retail job and take up drawing fantasy maps as a full-time career.

Feedback is an important part of designing these maps, according to Chris, as it means he can include as much folklore as possible and cover areas with interesting stories that may be underrepresented on other maps, doing justice to local communities while he creates a map of a place he is not 100 percent familiar with.

“It’s certainly a lot of work,” said Chris. “A good half of that is just through people’s feedback.”

“I post in a lot of places, on Facebook and Reddit, so it’s taking me a really long time to go through 1,000+ comments that people are posting on all of those platforms.

The West Midlands and Lord of the Rings actually go hand in hand. Writer JRR Tolkein lived in Birmingham and many of the locations in the novels were said to be inspired by the region. For example, it is regularly claimed that the Black Country’s heavy industrial past inspired his description of Mordor.

“I think with the West Midlands [map]it’s the fact that Tolkein lived there for a while,” said Chris, describing one of the things he enjoyed about working on his latest play.

“So I was able to get a lot of locations like Perrott’s Folly — I got the two towers that supposedly inspired the two towers [in the LOTR novels] … The other, I believe, was the Edgbaston Water Tower.”

Chris Birse’s Lord of the Rings Map of the West Midlands.

No wonder, then, that the West Midlands simply fits to be presented in Lord of the Rings map form.

But Shropshire also has beautiful folklore, and that made it a prime location for one of Chris’ fantasy maps.

“Back to Shropshire [map]my favorite piece from that region was the mythology and fantasy creatures that people highlighted – the wrekin giant is a favorite actually,” he explained.

“I drew him peeking out from behind the wrekin and I think that’s a really nice touch.”

You can see the full Shropshire map below.

Chris Birse’s Lord of the Rings Map of Shropshire.

“They are available in three main sizes. They’re all quite large given the sheer level of detail so the smallest is actually in A3, then I do an A2 and an A1 and they cost £18, £20 and £24 respectively,” he added.