Headington history: Non-listed buildings


The Kilns, Lewis Close

Front of house

Side of house

Back of house

Trees at the Kilns

Lake at the Kilns

The Kilns was built in 1922 on the site of a former brickworks, and the lake in its eight-acre garden was a flooded claypit. Joseph Thorne is listed in directories at this house from 1926 to 1928.

In 1930 C.S. Lewis bought The Kilns jointly with his brother Warnie, and Mrs Janie Moore. Lewis himself said of the house, “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

Risinghurst did not then exist, and Kiln Lane was in the countryside on the outskirts of the parish of Headington Quarry (whose church was a pleasant walk away before the eastern bypass cut off the area). Kiln Lane did not remain undeveloped for long: in February 1933 a dwelling house on Kiln Lane with “5 Acres of Wooded Building Land” was put up for auction.

Air-raid shelter
Air-raid shelter near the lake

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.

Blue plaque on the Kilns
Blue plaque erected on The Kilns on 26 July 2008

In 1968 the Lewis Close cul-de-sac was built, and The Kilns no longer stood in isolation.

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.

The outside of the house can be viewed from the road, but arrangements must be made in advance with the C.S. Lewis Foundation for tour groups to see inside.

Drive around Oxford and Headington
on a C. S. Lewis tours with Ron Brind

How to get to The Kilns from central Headington on foot or by bus

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. 9 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 Waitrose 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

You Tube: Memories of C. S. Lewis in Headington

© Stephanie Jenkins

Headington home Shark Oxford History home