Today was definitely one of my favorites so far this trip. We started the day with a nice late start with breakfast at 8:30, before heading to The Kilns. The Kilns is the name of C.S. Lewis’ house where he lived for much of his life. The house is known as “The Kilns” because it was the previous site of a brick kiln, near the Headington Quarry. Once inside, the tour guide introduced us to the house, walked us through its history, and explained how it is used today. I found it really interesting how he described its present application. He spoke about the difference between how America and England treats old buildings. In England, they respect the building and keep it alive by using it as what it is: a home. In contrast, in America it is typical to close off and attempt to preserve the building. For this reason, The Kilns is currently a functioning home for approved Oxford students who have a special appreciation for C.S. Lewis and his works. I liked this because it made the house feel alive and real. It was an indescribable privilege to stand in the very rooms that such a revered man lived out his life and penned the very works that I and millions of others know and love. Upon leaving the house, we took a walk on the path that C.S. Lewis often took up to Shelley Pond. The scenery of the water and the chirping of the birds made me understand why he would seek this place to clear his thoughts.
We continued our C.S. Lewis-themed tour of Oxford by heading over to Holy Trinity Church, where he attended much of his later life and is buried. It struck me odd that a man of such talent and influence should be buried in such a humble spot, amidst overgrown grass and ancient graves. He died on November 22, 1963, but received little recognition, due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy on the same date. He was honored, however, with a memorial stone in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey, which our tour group visited earlier in the trip.
We took a short drive further into Oxford to begin our walking tour. We started at the foot of the Martyrs’ Memorial, which remembers the deaths of Protestants Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, who were put to death because of their beliefs. Then we went further and stopped at the exact spot where all three had been burned at the stake. Along our walk, we took some time to explore University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, where Cranmer was tried and preached his final sermon. We also climbed the steep spiral steps up the spire of the church to look out over beautiful Oxford, the “city of spires.” We walked along and saw a few more sites including the New Building of Magdalen College where C.S. Lewis’ office was, as well the Addison Walk, which is another scenic walk that C.S. Lewis often enjoyed.
At the end of our walking tour, we were let loose into Oxford to shop and explore for a few hours. I personally made a point to make a stop at The Eagle and The Child, where C.S. Lewis and The Inklings often met to drink and discuss their writing projects. At 5:30pm, we walked back to the hostel, and then were driven by our wonderful coach driver Richard out to dinner, then back again for the evening. Over the course of this trip, I have enjoyed exploring old places new to me and learning about the past in a vivid and real way.
By David Nelson