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C. S. Lewis's Parish Church

The first time I visited Oxford, in 1982, the porter at Magdalen College didn't even recognize the name--C. S. Lewis. I had asked him if he could give me directions to Lewis's former home in Headington Quarry. Obviously, he could not and did not. (Directions to Lewis's former home are now much easier to obtain. Just click here for directions and to arrange a tour: The Kilns.)
Things have changed a lot since 1982. Now Lewis is remembered all around Oxford. At the pub where the Inklings met, at Magdalen College, and not least--at his parish church--Holy Trinity Headington Quarry.
The first time I visited the church I only saw the outside and Lewis's grave, shared with his brother Warnie.
Since that first visit I have returned to Holy Trinity a number of times and worshiped there. Father Tom Honey is a real gem. Under his leadership the congregation has grown and now includes a number of young families. I was overwhelmed by the number of children who came into the sanctuary for Holy Communion the last time I was there. The church is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the Oxford area on a Sunday morning. The church is also offering open visitation times throughout the summer. For information on that, see their web site: Holy Trinity Church.

While visiting Holy Trinity you won't want to miss seeing the Narnia window:
Or the place where Lewis sat behind the pillar (so that the vicar could not see the expression on his face during the sermon!):

Unfortunately this couple, and many others, have sat in this pew thinking it was where Lewis sat. Actually he sat BEHIND the pillar! How do I know? I was told so by Douglas Gresham, Lewis's step-son, who sat next to him in church. And I just had this fact confirmed for me in an e-mail from Doug. He provided a simple exercise to follow in order for future visitors to the church to determine where C. S. Lewis sat:
"Simple, sit in the pew, with the pillar directly between yourself and the pulpit so that the priest preaching would be unable to see you and you would be unable to see that priest, and then you would be in the place where Jack sat. These folks are not only in the wrong place, but are also in the wrong pew."
People in the United States used to joke about the many signs up and down the original thirteen colonies claiming: "George Washington slept here." Maybe this is the beginning of a similar joke: "C. S. Lewis sat here."
(Photos courtesy of Ferrell Jenkins,


Ferrell Jenkins said…
Will --

I think it would be appropriate for you to credit the three photos you used from my web site:

At my site I have a photo of the plaque stating, "Here sat and worshiped Clive Staples Lewis." We have to go with what we know at the time.
Ferrell Jenkins
Will Vaus said…
Dear Ferrell,

Happy to give credit where credit is due. Thanks for posting your comment.

I think the church got it wrong when placing the plaque. In fact, I think the plaque was placed on the pew after my visit to the church with Douglas Gresham when he told us all the story of where Jack sat. Unfortunately they just got the plaque in the wrong place.

Again, thanks for the photos you took which are very nice and I will update the blog to reflect that they are your photos.

Arborfield said…
Hi Will... yes well worth a visit. Did you manage to go to 'The Kilns' in the end? Much the same as always, save it is now in 'Lewis Close'. The pond in the woods behind the house is in a disgraceful state. Warnie and Jack spent so much time on their 'public works', I wonder what their reaction would be to the state of the place?

Roger R.
Will Vaus said…
Yes Roger, I did get to the Kilns. The first time was in 1982. Mr. Thirsk was the owner then. He bought the house from Maureen Moore, to whom the house reverted after Warnie's death. At any rate, I rang the doorbell at the Kilns. Mr. Thirsk came to the door. I introduced myself as an American fan of C. S. Lewis and asked if I could take photos of the house. Pretty forward, huh? Well, I was 19, what can I say? Mr. Thirsk was very polite and said, "You may walk around the outside of the house and take as many photos as you wish." I did just that.

The next time I was at the Kilns was in 1997 with Douglas Gresham. He was, obviously, able to tell us quite a bit about the house and its inhabitants as he walked us through on a tour. I have been back a couple of times since then. And yes, the house is in beautiful shape today, much better than in the time of Mr. Thirsk. Though, as you say, not as much can be said for the pond, sadly.

Thanks for your comment.
Awais said…
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