Holy Trinity Church in Oxford: Where C. S. Lewis Worshiped and Is Buried

The magic of England never fades for the true Anglophile. I posted earlier this year on our trip to The Kilns: Where C. S. Lewis Lived and Wrote, but I didn’t include pictures of Holy Trinity Church in Oxford, where Lewis worshiped and is buried. At long last, here are those pictures.

Our tour guide was a good friend of Lewis’s back in the day. He was also a Royal Air Force Veteran of World War II, which gave us plenty to talk about. We thanked him for his bravery and service, but he said it was the United States’ entry into the war that saved the world from the evil Nazi delusion. He had wonderful “Jack” Lewis stories to share that don’t usually make their way into the biographies and textbooks.

Lewis died at the Kilns on November 22, 1963, the same day as Aldous Huxley and President John F. Kennedy. Few people attended the Lewis funeral because they didn’t know he had passed. His brother Warnie went on a bender to soothe his depression, rendering him incapable of spreading the word. Moreover, the print and radio news cycles were dominated that week by the assassination of the American President. 

Lewis’ final years were happy ones. From charity and common literary interests grew a deep friendship with American poet and pen pal Joy Davidman. Her acquaintance with Lewis led to his underwriting the boarding school education of her sons David and Douglas. Eventually agape became eros for this charming if improbable couple, and they were married in 1956.

Joy was nearly 17 years Lewis’s junior, which only served to enrich the happiness of their marriage. Experience, enthusiasm, and an array of common interests combined to provide the needed chemistry. A savage case of cancer, however, cut short their life together. After several years of reprieve from an earlier and nearly fatal bout with cancer, Joy Lewis passed away on July 13, 1960.

Still, Joy’s entry into Jack’s life brought much happiness. As he wrote to one friend soon after their marriage, “It’s funny having at 59 the sort of happiness most men have in their twenties . . . ‘Thou hast kept the good wine till now.’ ” 

Lewis is buried beside his brother (who lived ten more years) in the cemetery of Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, Oxford. His letters and books, and the lives these writings touch, are his enduring legacy.

The gravestone for Lewis and his brother, Major Warren “Warnie” Lewis, reads, “Men must endure their going hence,” the Shakespeare quotation on their father’s calendar the day their mother died. 

The Kilns: Where C. S. Lewis Lived and Wrote

Below are a few pictures from the scores I took during our 2019 visit to the “The Kilns,” the adult home of scholar and author C. S. Lewis, located on the outskirts of Headington Quarry, Oxford, England. The place is named for a brick-making operation that had two large kilns on site. The house today is a study center, so reservations for tour times are required. Our guide was a doctoral student from the United States, and we had about 20 minutes before the tour began to talk about the research he was doing for his dissertation. The best tour guides are those who share the stories we don’t read about in books, and our guide had plenty of those woven into his presentation. In the end, it was great to finally see where so many of Lewis’ treasured thoughts were put to paper.

Departing for “The Kilns” on a double-decker bus like this, which are common in Oxford (and throughout England).
Walking the lane to get to the Lewis home.
Coming around the corner to the front of the house.
A left front view of the Kilns.
Plaque posted at the main entrance.
Desk in the downstairs study.
A bookcase in the downstairs study.
The upstairs study, where Lewis did much of his reading and writing.
The writing desk in the upstairs study. All evidence suggests that the Narnia tales were written here.
Lewis at his writing desk in the upstairs study.

“Jack” as Lewis was better known, slept in the upstairs bedroom, the smallest and most inconvenient room to access. When his college roommate Paddy Moore was killed in World War I, Jack befriended Paddy’s mother, Mrs. Janie King Moore, and her adolescent daughter Maureen. In 1920, after completing his first degree, Lewis decided to share lodgings with them (in fulfillment of a vow he had made to Paddy during the war) so he could more carefully look after their needs.

Lewis gave Mrs. Moore the larger bedroom, which he had to pass through to get to his own. That would have been inappropriate, so Leiws had an external staircase built off his room so he could access it another way. If he needed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, he would use this staircase, putting himself out for the sake of his friend’s mother, who could be quite demanding. Lewis patiently lived what he wrote in The Four Loves.

Lewis’ modest bedroom. The small size of the room made it hard to get an unobstructed shot.
The ladder stairs built so Lewis could access he bedroom without having to go through Mrs. Moore’s bedroom.
The kitchen table, where Jack and his wife, Joy Davidman, often played Scrabble. They allowed themselves to play words in any language, including Elvish languages, as long as the word could be found in any book in the house.
The typewriter of Warnie Lewis, Jack’s brother, who also lived at the Kilns. (Jack wrote all his manuscripts by hand.)
The downstairs library and gathering room.
Around the side of the house.
Gathering area in the front yard.
Bidding farewell to the Kilns, and the other people we met on the tour.

The simplicity of the Kilns was quite a contrast to the ornate houses, palaces, and castles we visited during our time in England. It just goes to show that we don’t need to be wealthy or live in luxury to have a great impact. We just need to have an openness to the beauty, truth, and goodness of God as revealed in Christ—a willingness to be enchanted by wonder.