The Kilns: C.S. Lewis’ Home

The British author, C.S. Lewis, is probably best known for his children’s fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia.  However, he is known for his Christian works as well, such as Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.  After serving in WWI, Lewis attended Oxford University.  Following his graduation, he remained at Oxford and taught English Language and Literature from 1925 to 1954.  In 1930, he, his brother, and his deceased friend’s mother purchased a home on the grounds of a former brickworks in Oxford called “The Kilns.”

C.S. Lewis had a little stairway built outside his home that led straight to his bedroom.

I had the exciting opportunity of visiting The Kilns with my literature class in 2010.  The C.S. Lewis Foundation, an organization that hosts conferences and is dedicated to preserving the legacy of C.S. Lewis, owns The Kilns.  Since 2002, it has provided Scholars-in-Residence programs to visiting scholars and graduate students.  People interested in visiting The Kilns may also schedule tours of it.  My professor scheduled a tour of the home prior to our visit.  However, she also has connections so was able to arrange for Dr. Michael Ward, the Warden of The Kilns from 1996 to 1999, to join us.  Dr. Ward wrote a book called Planet Narnia in 2008, in which he argues that each of the Chronicles of Narnia books intentionally corresponds with one of the seven medieval planets.

When I visited England in January of 2010, it was allegedly the snowiest winter that England had seen in 30 years.  Therefore, as my classmates and I walked on the grounds surrounding Lewis’ home, which is now the C.S. Lewis Nature Reserve, we could not help but imagine ourselves in Narnia during the wintry reign of Queen Jadis.  Interestingly, we learned that the frozen pond that we found near Lewis’ home was actually the remains of a man-made hole created during the land’s kiln days, when workers used to dig for clay to create bricks.  Lewis used to own a lot of the land surrounding the Kilns, and employed a gardener named Fred Paxford to take care of it.  Many believe that his pessimistic gardener became the inspiration for Lewis’ character, Puddleglum, from The Silver Chair.  Today, most of Lewis’ property either became part of the C.S. Lewis Nature Reserve or was sold to land developers who built homes on it.

When my class and I went inside Lewis’ home, we only saw the main floor, since students live in the bedrooms.  Perhaps other tours show more of the home, but we were short on time, so only saw the kitchen, dining room, and study room.  We did also see a wardrobe in the hallway.  However, Westmont College in California and Wheaton College in Illinois both claim to have Lewis’ actual wardrobe that inspired the one found in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Apparently, the question of who owns the actual wardrobe is a controversial topic.

What stood out to me the most in Lewis’ home was the ceiling.  When the C.S. Lewis Foundation renovated Lewis’ home, they made the interesting decision of painting some of the ceiling yellow.  The yellow paint represents the fact that the ceiling used to be stained yellow from many years of Lewis and his brother smoking their pipes indoors.

If you visit The Kilns, be sure to also take a fifteen-minute walk to C.S. Lewis’ church, Holy Trinity in Headington Quarry.  The window near the pew where Lewis used to sit is designed with scenes from The Chronicles of Narnia.  Additionally, Lewis is buried in the Church’s cemetery.  Thankfully, when I visited the cemetery, it had a sign near its entrance with a photograph of Lewis’ grave, as well as a map providing directions to it.  This was especially helpful for my class and I in 2010, when the graveyard was buried in snow.  I could not leave Oxford without seeing Lewis’ grave, so after digging around for a bit, I was proud to eventually find it.

C.S. Lewis’ grave at Holy Trinity Church Headington Quarry in Oxford

In 1954, C.S. Lewis became the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University.  Since Cambridge is nearly a two-hour drive away from Oxford, Lewis had to move there.  However, he still kept The Kilns, and would usually visit it on the weekends.  Clive Staples Lewis passed away on November 22, 1963, which was the same day that Aldous Huxley, the author of the dystopian novel, Brave New World, died.  Oddly, it was also the day that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

If you’re ever in Oxford, be sure to also visit the Eagle and Child Pub where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others met weekly to discuss each other’s writings.
This plaque is inside the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford.

Sources and Further Reading

“C.S. Lewis (1898-1964).” Headington. (accessed April 23, 2021).

“C.S. Lewis Study Centre at the Kilns. C.S. Lewis Foundation. (accessed April 23, 2021).

Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. “C.S. Lewis.” Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021. (accessed April 23, 2021).

Holy Trinity Headington Quarry. (accessed April 23, 2021).

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Oxford, Geoffrey Bles, 1950.

Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. Oxford: Geoffrey Bles, 1952.

Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters. Oxford: Geoffrey Bles, 1942.

Lewis, C.S. The Silver Chair. Oxford: Geoffrey Bles, 1953.

“The Life of C.S. Lewis Timeline.” C.S. Lewis Foundation. (accessed April 23, 2021).

“Michael Ward.” Planet Narnia. (accessed April 23, 2021).

“Our History.” C.S. Lewis Foundation. (accessed April 23, 2021).

Ward, Michael. Planet Narnia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.


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