Ronald K. Brind

C.S. Lewis in Oxford

A Guide for Visitors

Frequently asked questions

Read a detailed and intensely personal account of C S Lewis’s life in my ebook titled:

‘C S Lewis in Oxford: A Guide for Visitors’

BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION securely online at: http://www.PicturesOfEngland.com/accommodation to help me keep the name of a truly great man alive!

 

Available from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DVRJM58 my ebook includes more questions and answers, with maps, information and contact details if you are planning a pilgrimage to follow in the footsteps of a truly great man! Here are a few basic questions and answers to help you plan your trip to Oxford, England.

Question: How do I book for the C. S. Lewis Tour with Ron?
Answer: Apologies, the tours referred to are currently unavailable due to the lack of funds and an appropriate vehicle. As time and funds permit I hope to re-instate the tour.

Question: Can I make a donation to help you?
Answer: Yes; please use the PayPal Donate button at the bottom of this page and send a donation to:
Ron@CSLewisInOxford.com with the code (CSLIO) in the subject line. Thank you in anticipation.

Question: Can you recommend hotel accommodation and can we book tickets through this site?
Answer:
Yes, please click on the tab ‘Accommodation’ in the header and help us.

Our partners Superbreak provide accommodation to suit all requirements in all areas, along with the ability to book tickets for airport extras, travel, attractions, trains, shows and events, theatre, London and more. Take a look, you might be surprised at the options available, whilst helping me to preserve the Lewis legacy here in Oxford if you book through this site.

Question: I want to visit Holy Trinity Church; where is it and is it always open?
Answer: Address and postcode: Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Road, Headington Quarry, Headington, Oxford OX3 8LH. The Church is not always open so prior arrangements will save disappointment. The contact telephone number for Holy Trinity Church is +44 (0) 1865 762 931

Question: I want to visit the Kilns, where is it situated?
Answer:
The ‘Kilns’ can be found at the top of Lewis Close, Risinghurst Estate, Headington, Oxford OX3 8JD. Please note when visiting that the former Lewis home is NOT the property which proudly boasts the word Narnia showing a Lions head on the top right. However, it is the one before it.

Question: Is the ‘Kilns’ as we see it today specifically C S Lewis’ former home, or was the ‘Kilns’ the whole 8 or 9 acres that is sometimes referred to?
Answer:
When you visit C S Lewis’ former home the ‘Kilns’ today you will see a plaque on the gable end of the property that says quite simply ‘The Kilns’. This was the house where C S Lewis lived from 1930-1963 but the property extended well beyond that house up into the area of the lake and woodland making up a total of the eight acres plus.

Question: If I am lucky enough to arrange an internal viewing of the ‘Kilns’ is there a charge?
Answer:
Yes, you are asked to make a donation to the C S Lewis Foundation having seen inside.

Question: Is the C S Lewis Foundation a 501 (c) 3 Registered Charity?
Answer:
Yes.

Question: Is the former Lewis home a Museum?
Answer:
No. Stan Mattson; Founder and President of the C. S. Lewis Foundation in Redlands, California has told me [Ron] that it is not a public place, that he will never open it up on a full-time basis, neither is it a Museum! I say it should be a Museum and it should be open to the public on a daily basis!

Question: Is there anything original on show at the Kilns, furniture maybe?
Answer:
No, unless you count Warnie’s (Warren Hamilton Lewis’s) old typewriter that he used whilst secretary to C S Lewis at the Kilns. A member of the C S Lewis Foundation Kim Gilnett; a good friend since 1994 told me [Ron] that “a sofa in the attic is awaiting restoration”.

Question: A friend of mine has a photograph sitting at C S Lewis’ desk in the lounge under the bay window up at the ‘Kilns’. Are you saying that the desk is not the original item?
Answer:
Yes, the desk on display at the ‘Kilns’ is not the original. The original is in the Wade Centre, Illinois, USA.

Comment from Ron: Students studying literary authors, but not necessarily C S Lewis that have previously occupied rooms at the ‘Kilns’ during September to June allowing photographs to be taken at ‘the desk’ but have conveniently forgotten to mention that it isn’t really Lewis’ desk despite the blotter, the pipe and the ash tray! So if you think you have a gem of a photograph to treasure forever, not so!

Question: I will be staying in London. Can I make it to Oxford City travel to the Kilns and return to London by a reasonable hour?
Answer:
Yes, London to Oxford City is about a three hour return journey. The Kilns is about a 40 minute return journey by taxi from Oxford City. You then need to add the time spent viewing the ‘Kilns’ which is unlikely to be more than an hour, total approximately 5 hours. Another hour should be added if you decide to visit the lake and woodland ‘Narnia’ so in that case a total of 6 hours will be required as a minimum.

Question: Is there overland transport from London to Oxford?
Answer:
Yes, for transport from London to Oxford see website www.oxfordtube.com . This brilliant service runs both ways every 10 minutes / 24 hours / 7 days a week. Don’t forget to get a return ticket for economy. The bus/coach terminus in Oxford City is called Gloucester Green (pronounced glosta green)

Question: Is it an easy drive into Oxford from London and might there be parking problems?
Answer:
For the drive to Oxford you should allow at least two hours from London, but it really depends on your own ability, note that parking is very difficult and expensive.

Comment from Ron: The easy way to get into Oxford City from London is to drive as far as one of the Park ‘n’ Ride car parks on the outskirts of the City and then get a bus ride from the car park in for the remainder of the journey.

Question: Where are the Park ‘n’ Ride car parks situated?
Answer:
Traveling from London the Thornhill Park ‘n’ Ride at Sandhills on the A40 is very convenient. From Stratford the Peartree Park ‘n’ Ride and Water Eaton both sites just off of the A34 at Kidlington are very convenient. From Abingdon (A34 again) the Redbridge Park ‘n’ Ride is equally convenient.

Comment from Ron: I certainly recommend this mode of transport into Oxford City. Your car can be parked up for free (or minimal charge). The buses stop at various locations entering the City but the Pear Tree service stops right outside the Randolph Hotel in Oxford City.

Question: Who currently owns the former Lewis home?
Answer:
The C S Lewis Foundation of Redlands, California, USA.

Question: It seems the C S Lewis Foundation of Redlands, California would rather you didn’t visit the Kilns in Oxford – could that be true?
Answer:
It certainly appears that way. On their website they make a point of saying they will not create either a shrine, or a tourist centre at the Kilns! How disgraceful is that when so many people the world over honour such a great man, a man who has changed the hearts and minds of millions, a man who continues to affect the lives of many people throughout the world!

Question: Are visitors allowed into the ‘Kilns’ on a daily basis?
Answer:
No, but if you are a friend of Stan Mattson; Founder and President of the CSLF from my experience, you stand a better chance of getting in!

Comment from Ron: Opening up Lewis’s former home for viewing is not a priority for the C S Lewis Foundation. This is where Stan Mattson and I disagree entirely, as I feel it should be open to all on a permanent basis. I believe the property should be returned to its former ‘glory’ of dusty and cobweb covered bookshelves, minimal carpets that boasted their fair share of animal hairs, blackout curtains at the windows and so on. Visitors would be able to see how the Lewis brothers really lived, in comparative squalor and yet they gave everything!

Question: Does anybody live at the Kilns?
Answer:
Yes, there is a Head Resident now referred to as ‘Warden’. Previously students studying literary authors (not necessarily C S Lewis) would occupy the property from September to June and then during July and August the so-called ‘Lewis Seminars’ would take place at a jaw dropping $2,695 for a six day stay! Eight or nine weeks, multiplied by how many bedrooms six, seven, eight, nine?

Comment from Ron: Those studying literary authors could have done so from any other house on the planet. As for the money raised from the Seminars, well where does that go? What is it spent on because I have an email from a former student tenant at the Kilns that states “We receive very little funding for the upkeep”.

Question: Is the former home as it was when the Lewis brothers lived there?
Answer:
No!

Comment from Ron: Whilst a certain amount of restoration has taken place for which the CSLF deserve credit, it appears to have been done in the interests of those who live there today. It is a thoroughly modern home and comfortable, unlike the days of Jack and Warnie when for example nicotine was almost dripping from the ceiling and walls as a result of their heavy smoking!

Question: So if the former home was in a plot of about 8 or 9 acres, what has happened to the rest of the site?
Answer:
Seven houses have been built on what was originally an Orchard and one house has been built in what literally used to be Lewis’s rear garden. The brick kilns, brick drying barn, tennis courts and bungalow were all demolished. The lake and woodland, also once part of Lewis’s garden is today owned by the Buckinghamshire Berkshire Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) it having been gifted to them in 1969 by Dora Stephen wife of Henry Stephen.

Question: Who was Frank (Fred) Paxford?
Answer:
Fred or ‘Paxford’ as he was known to us all up at the ‘Kilns’ was the spare cook, gardener, handyman, caretaker but above all the trusted friend of C S Lewis. He went about his business at the Kilns whistling and humming as if he didn’t have a care in the world. But Douglas Gresham and I would certainly hear him when he called us, for he had a voice to shake the plums from the trees! In fact C S Lewis modeled ‘Puddleglum’ on Paxford (‘The Silver Chair’).

The air-raid shelter was also Puddleglums handy work and was hidden away in the woodland during the war years, but it can still be seen although it is now on the BBOWT owned property known as the C S Lewis Reserve. However, it does look as if attempts have been made to hide it with a gate having been fixed to it and Holly tree’s that have been planted in front of it.

A recent visit shows no sign of the Holly trees above ground, although the roots may well still be there. Obviously visitors keen to see the shelter have trampled the shrubs, or maybe even pulled them up, such is the feeling of disgust in attempting to cover up our history of which it seems BBOWT care very little!

Comment from Ron: Fred was a dear friend to us boys, seemingly always on hand when things went wrong or if ever we needed help.

Question: Who was Mrs Miller?
Answer:
Mrs Miller owned a house in Kiln Lane, Risinghurst Estate, Headington, Oxford and was official cook for the Lewis household. In Warnie’s Will he bequested her £5,000 out of an Estate that was worth just over £74,000.

Comment from Ron: For that amount of money she must have been a better cook than housekeeper, for the minimal carpets and deep sofa’s in the Lewis household were always covered in animal hairs!

Question: How did Douglas Gresham get on with Mrs Miller?
Answer:
Well let’s just say that she wasn’t at the top of his Christmas card list!

Comment from Ron: After Douglas Gresham’s mother died Mrs Miller ‘hounded’ him, always chasing after him on Risinghurst Estate and on one occasion even getting the police to search for him, yet Douglas had done nothing wrong, he was merely playing away from the ‘Kilns’ with the local boys for once!

Question: What happened to Douglas and David Gresham after their mother died?
Answer:
After Joy died in 1960 Douglas Gresham was sent away to Boarding School by Jack, met a girl named Merrie who later became his wife. Douglas and Merrie then traveled to Tasmania. I didn’t see him again until he walked into the pub that I was landlord of in 1994 – the Ampleforth Arms (not a pub that C S Lewis would use today I suspect and currently nothing like it was in his day, sadly I can’t even recommend a visit). As for David Gresham I haven’t heard from him to this day and doubt I will.

Comment from Ron: Even after 34 years I recognized Douglas Gresham as he walked into the Ampleforth Arms pub instantly, and the first thing he said was “I’ve still got the gun you sold me” a double barrelled .410 bore from all those years ago, wow! David Gresham, he had taken up the Judaic faith whilst living at the ‘Kilns’ as was his legal right of course, his mother being the American Jewess.

Question: Where does Douglas and David Gresham live?
Answer:
Douglas did live in Ireland and maybe still does own property there, but I am told he was considering a move to Malta and/or France. David Gresham married an Indian girl and is said to own property in Zurich, Dublin and India.

Question: Who gets the Royalties from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’?
Answer:
I am told Lewis’ step-sons Douglas and David Gresham.

Comment from Ron: Born lucky or what?

Question: Who was Henry Stephen?
Answer:
He owned the property with his wife Dora that was quite literally built in Lewis’ rear garden. During 1969 the lake and woodland, part of the original Kilns purchased by Mrs Janie King-Moore was gifted to BBOWT by Dora Stephen in memory of her husband. After much discussion the location was named as the C S Lewis Reserve in memory of Henry Stephen!

Question: Where did the name ‘the Kilns’ come from?
Answer:
During the late nineteenth Century there was a thriving brick industry trading from the ‘Clay Hills’ with members of my own family working to dig clay (where the lake is today) which was then formed into house bricks. The bricks were then stacked into the brick kilns and fired, and then the brick drying barn, hence the name the Kilns!

Comment from Ron: It is those brick kilns that I would like to rebuild along with the drying barn, therefore bringing the Kilns back to what it was when Jack and Warnie lived there. I can only dream about an internal visit of Lewis’ former home, following a designated route throughout the whole of the property one day, maybe!

An aside: you might also be interested to know that I recently came across a webpage for the ‘Oxford C S Lewis Society’ (Founded 1982) something that I didn’t even know existed! See https://sites.google.com/site/lewisinoxford/

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