C. S. LEWIS (1898–1963)
Scholar and author
The Kilns, Lewis Close, Headington Quarry, Oxford
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, the son of Albert Lewis, solicitor, and Florence Augusta Flora, a clergyman’s daughter and graduate of Queen’s College in mathematics and logic, who died when he was a boy. He was educated at Malvern College and received private tuition from the inspiring W. T. Kirkpatrick who nurtured his intellect. He saw service in the First War and was wounded at Arras before taking up his classical scholarship at University College in 1919. From 1925 he was Fellow and Tutor in English Language and Literature at Magdalen where one of his pupils, though not his favourite, was John Betjeman. It was in Lewis’s rooms in the New Building there that Tolkien and the other ‘Inklings’ first gathered for their weekly meetings from 1936.
After his famous conversion from atheism to Christianity (associated, by his own account, with a mystical experience on a bus going up Headington Hill) he went on to become a prolific and internationally acclaimed lecturer and writer of books on Christian topics. In 1954 he became Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge but always returned to Oxford as base.
The Kilns remained his beloved home where lived for over thirty years with his brother Warnie and later with his American wife Joy whom he married in 1956. It was here that he wrote all his books, including the Chronicles of Narnia. The house has become especially famous in recent years thanks to the celebrated play and film Shadowlands about Lewis’s marriage to Joy Gresham.
He died on 22 November 1963 and is buried at Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry.
- Sources: C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, autobiography (1955); A. N. Wilson, C. S. Lewis: a biography (1990); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (J. A. W. Bennett rev. Emma Plaskitt)
- Oxford Mail, 28 July 2008: ‘Author honoured with blue plaque’
The plaque was unveiled at The Kilns, Lewis Close, Oxford on 26 July 2008 by Dr Walter Hooper. Dr Stanley Mattson, President of the C. S. Lewis Foundation of California, owners of the house, spoke about the organisation and the restoration of the house. The ceremony was timed to coincide with the Foundation’s triennial conference in Oxford.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
C. S. LEWIS
Scholar and Author
C. S. Lewis Foundation