A few weekends ago, all the best laid plans I’d made fell apart. Fair to say, real life wasn’t working out. Thanks, Covid. Refusing to be disheartened, I set out to find a bit of escapism.
Actually, what I decided was we’d go off in search of Narnia.
Well, not literally. I wasn’t intending to go poking around in any wardrobes, but I’d heard there was a little bit of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe magic to be found in the Oxford suburb of Headington Quarry.
C.S Lewis and the City of Oxford
There is a strong connection between CS Lewis, writer of the Chronicles of Narnia, and the city of Oxford. He lived in the city ,wrote there and in the streets of Oxford found inspiration for the world he created.
The city that welcomed and inspired him also became his final stop. C.S Lewis is laid to rest at the Holy Trinity Church in the Oxford suburb of Headington.
It’s a surprisingly modest grave for for such a celebrated man. So much so, it could easily be missed although there is some helpful signage. The inscription threw up a couple of new-to-me facts. One: the ‘C’ stands for Clive. For some reason I always presumed it was Charles…Charles just seemed like a writerly name.
Two: Despite seeming to be the quintessential English gent, C.S Lewis was actually born in Belfast. There you go. Every day a school day.
The Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, Oxford.
The church is found in the suburb of Headington Quarry ( for satnav use postcode OX3 8NX, Quarry Road) which itself has a lovely village feel. You approach the church vis a leafy lane, leaving the noise and bustle of daily modern life behind.
The church itself is modest, but lovely.
Colourful prayer cushions and pretty flower arrangements create colour and warmth in the interior. Shelves of well -loved children’s books suggest that this truly is a family friendly place to worship. And, yes, there were lots of copies of the Narnia books.
C.S Lewis began attending this church in the 1930’s and remained actively involved until his death in 1963.
C.S Lewis & The Narnia Window
But Narnia isn’t just immortalized on the bookshelf. When C.S Lewis attended this church, he had his favourite pew. One close to a window. As a tribute to the man and the world he imagined, the glass in that window has been replaced with an etched glass imagining of his most famous work.
It is a thing of whimsical beauty. The pictures I managed to take really don’t do it justice. You’d think an etched glass window might not catch the eye the in a church of colourful cushions and traditional stained glass windows but it stands out beautifully in its simplicity.
There is a little sadness is how the window came to be, though. It was paid for with funds left to the church by the Howe family. George and Kathleen Howe lost both of their children at a young age. Upon their death, money was gifted to the church to create a window in their memory but with free choice as to the subject. It’s a touching tribute and the families names have been added below.
We’d planned to head into Oxford itself to explore some more Narnia themed spots, but rain stopped play. And when I say rain, I mean a torrential down pour. And none of us really dressed for it.
And Finally, Something Completely Different…
In good humour, we decided to call it a day. The Narnia themed sights of Oxford will be there for another time.. Even the kids in the Chronicles of Narnia knew when to retreat and head back to the wardrobe. We didn’t have a wardrobe to retreat to, so we went for a McDonalds instead. Consumed in the car as the restaurant wasn’t open yet. But Mr THL saved the day again, finding us the best space in the carpark. Table for five, space with a view. You’ve just got to laugh and make the better of it sometimes, hey?
Despite the weather and some mild disappointment due to cancelled plans, we did round off our day in Oxford with a real laugh-out-loud moment. Are you ready for something completely different?
This. The Headington shark. Dropped into the top of a completely normal house on an otherwise non-descript street. Its bonkers. And brilliant. That shark probably felt right at home the way the rain was coming down. Not the best picture, snapped from the car. I wasn’t getting out again.
That was our weekend. Whimsical, bonkers and wet with a side order of determined positivity. I hope yours was lovely, too.
If you like this you might also enjoy Library Love @ The Lit & Phil Newcastle and We’re all mad here….
Brilliant. Who needs a guide when you can make all the discoveries yourselves? And real discoveries too, that hadn’t been previously pointed out. Well done on an enterprising, if wet weekend.
Thank you, it wasn’t a bad one. Lots of laughs, even the teenagers took it all in good spirit. Always another day!
Fascinating post. Had no idea either that he was a Clive or that he was Irish. Love all of the references to his work around Oxford too, that sort of thing is so interesting and gives the city another dimension.
I can’t wait to get back to Oxford to delve a bit more into it. Either on a better-weather day, or a better dressed-for-the-weather sort of day!
I had assumed he was a Charles too! You certainly made the best of the torrential rain and I loved your burger bar in the car park experience. That’s what we all should do, just carry on regardless and adjust to the circumstances. Hope you have a good week. Marion
Absolutely! Things are different now and I can’t see any gain in being glum about it. Hope you have a good week also.
A day of infinite variety! I first came across Narnia aged 7 when my teacher read it to us, a bit at the end of each day. I loved it and eventually owned my own boxed set of the books. It’s still on my shelves now, though a bit worse for wear and I suspect the yellow, brittle pages would spring out from the spines if I tried to open them.
By coincidence I was finishing off my Narnia in Belfast when I read your Post – how’s that for serendipity? I’ve put a link in mine to yours so hopefully, a few more might wander over to yours and read about C S Lewis. Mine is at https://travels-with-my-camera.blog/2020/07/30/narnia-in-belfast/ should you wish to take a look. Now I have to figure out what to do about the Wikkiwands image of Lewis which is just too big for a header image.
That’s already great day out better than being bored at home on a rainy day? 🙂
Absolutely! No such thing as the wrong weather and all of that!
Definitely better to be out and about , than at home being glum about the rain!
Can’t beat a healthy dose of positivity, Helen. And the etched glass window looks beautiful. 🙂 🙂
Loved your post and thanks for ‘Clive’ , filed it away already . My favourite though was the shark picture. What in the world was that? A sculpture , a real thing , Sharknado perhaps?
I’ve no idea, just something the previous owner of the house fancied I think. It’s definitely different! 😂
I really enjoy your writing and narration Helen and a part of me feels like I was there with you in Oxford. Clive S. Lewis? Quite the writer name indeed and I wonder what the S stands for. It could be another surprise don’t you think. The church did the right thing!
Thank you so much, I think the S is for Staples…if I remember rightly! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, always appreciated!
love Narnia books ! I’ve visited Oxford a long time ago, it was Valentine’s Day and it snowed previously, such a beautiful city