The Kilns, Lewis Close
The Kilns was built in 1922 on the site of a former brickworks, and its lake is a flooded claypit. Joseph Thorne is listed in directories at The Kilns from 1926 to 1928.
The Kilns was purchased by C.S. Lewis, his brother Warnie, and Mrs Janie Moore in 1930. Lewis himself wrote of “The Kilns”, “I never hoped for the like”, and Warnie described it thus:
“The house stands at the entrance to its own grounds at the northern foot of Shotover at the end of a narrow lane, which in turn opens off a very bad and little used road [now Kiln Lane], giving as great privacy as can reasonably be looked for near a large town.”
The Kilns then stood in an eight-acre garden on Kiln Lane, alone in the countryside on the outskirts of the parish of Headington Quarry (a pleasant walk away before the eastern bypass cut the area off). Risinghurst did not then exist, but grew up all around the house.
Above: Air-raid shelter near the lake
Left: Blue plaque erected on the Kilns on 26 July 2008
The extensive wild grounds to the south of the house (comprising a lake and a wooded hill) provided the inspiration for the Chronicles of Narnia, which started off as a tale told to children evacuated to the Kilns from London in 1939.
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was published nine years later in 1948.
In 1969 BBONT (the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire Naturalists’ Trust, now renamed the Wildlife Trust) was given the lake and woodland behind the Kilns by Dora Stephen, in memory of her husband Henry.
The California-based C.S. Lewis Foundation bought The Kilns itself in the 1980s for £130,000 and has restored it to its original 1930s appearance. A bid to gain listed status for the house was rejected in February 2002.
The lake and extensive grounds that inspired the Narnia books can be visited at any time. Arrangements must be made in advance with the C.S. Lewis Foundation for tour groups to see around the house.
How to get to the Kilns from central Headington
Here are instructions on how to get to the Kilns in Lewis Close, Risinghurst on foot from the centre of Headington (approx 1 mile), with an opportunity to see other buildings connected with C.S. Lewis en route. If this is too far for you, after looking at Joy Davidman’s house in Old High Street take a No. 8A bus from outside Bury Knowle Park to Kiln Lane. Note that the route below is not possible by car, but there is a public carpark in Old High Street.
- Start outside Somerfield in Old High Street, and notice the plaque to Joy Davidman on 10 Old High Street opposite.
- Cross the London Road via the pedestrian crossing and turn left. Walk a short way eastwards along London Road
- Turn right into Holyoake Road (the next road after Windmill Road), and see Hillsboro at No. 14 where Lewis lived with Mrs Moore before they moved to the Kilns
- At the end of this road turn left into St Leonard’s Road
- When you reach the crossroads junction with Wharton Road, turn right into Wharton Road
- Walk to the end of Wharton Road, and turn left into Margaret Road. Follow this road eastwards for its full length until it meets the old village of Quarry
- At the junction, cross Quarry Road and take the right-hand road, Quarry Hollow, down the hill (into a former pit) and then Beaumont Road up again to the Eastern bypass (diverting to the right to see Holy Trinity Church with C.S. Lewis’s grave and the Narnia Window if you wish)
- Cross the bypass with great care, using the pedestrian crossings to your right: the traffic is very fast
- You will see Kiln Lane facing you and leading towards the right. Walk along Kiln Lane, and Lewis Close is the fourth turning on the right
- The Kilns (closed to visitors unless you have booked a tour) is on the right at the top end of Lewis Close, and a wooden gate ahead of you leads into the landscape that inspired Narnia
The postcode of The Kilns is OX3 8JD
See where the house is on Streetmap