Arthur Reuel Tolkien, the father of J.R.R. Tolkien, was born in Handsworth, Stafford, England, about February of 1857. He was the eldest child of John Benjamin Tolkien and Mary Jane Stowe, who had married on 16 February, 1856 in All Saints Parish church, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England. Arthur had at least 5 siblings: Mabel (1858), Grace Bindley (1861), Florence Mary (1863), Wilfred Henry, and Laurence George H. Tolkien. Marian Esther (1866) and Mary Tolkien (1870) may also have been sisters of Arthur.
Arthur's father John had previously been married, to Jane Holmwood, with whom he had four children: Emily, born 1838, Louisa, born 1840, John Benjamin, born 1845 and Jane, born 1846.
John had been a piano teacher and turner and a music seller, but he had gone bankrupt. Arthur did not follow his father into the traditional Tolkien trade in pianos, which many of his London cousins also followed; instead he became a bank clerk and ended up moving to South Africa, where he was later joined by his fiance, Mabel Suffield. They were married in 1891. Ronald was born on the 3rd of January 1892 and his brother Hilary Arthur Reuel two years later on February 17, 1894. Their mother felt the English climate would be better for the boys' health and returned to England in 1895. Arthur remained in South Africa because of bussiness, where he died of severe brain haemorrhage following rheumatic fever, on 15 February 1896, before he had the opportunity to join his family in England. Arthur was buried in the Anglican church in Bloemfontein.