Sunday, October 20, 2013

the kilns


 photo frontispiece_zps478811f1.jpg

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here.
This is the land I have been looking for all my life,
though I never knew it till now...
Come further up, come further in!”


-- C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle.



As a Scholar-in-Residence, sponsored by the C. S. Lewis Foundation, my home during the month I spent at Oxford was Lewis’ own house. The house’s name dates back to the brick manufacture that had long been based at the eastern end of Oxford, in a section called Headington. When Lewis purchased the house in 1930, there had been acres of land encircling the house. Since his passing, in 1963, portions east and north of the house had been sold (as house lots), and a nature reserve bearing Lewis’ name was created south of the house. Publicly accessible, the nature reserve’s land had once been part of The Kilns’ property, and was a favorite place (and literary inspiration) for Lewis and his colleague J. R. R. Tolkien. The gardens around The Kilns, enjoyed by Lewis, his family, friends, and guests, are still as important to the home as the rooms themselves- and the outdoor space contributes to the house’s sense of sanctuary. With layered plants, trees, and flower beds- plus a row of hedges along the road- there are neither walls nor fences around The Kilns. Being in and around the house, I always felt the cottage-sized building and its peripheral gardens were larger than their actual area dimensions.



 photo sect1A_zps40e42ff8.jpg

 photo sect1B_zps4603fbe6.jpg
Views in and from the C. S. Lewis Nature Reserve, Oxford.


 photo sect1C_zps66a9dc01.jpg


 photo sect1D_zpse48eaa56.jpg


The Kilns is maintained by the Foundation both as a historic place to visit, and as a place for scholars to live. The warden of the house emphasizes how the place is a living landmark- compared to a static environment as found in most museums. Scheduled tours are meant to promote awareness of C.S. Lewis, displaying and providing narratives for the grounds and common rooms. For a resident, the house is very much a hands-on and cozy home, in and around which to roam and find respite. And plenty to read: along with the parlor (livingroom) and the study, the northern portion of the house is the C. S. Lewis Study Center. The parlor, which faces the largest portion of the garden, is an intimate space; one side of the fireplace has a complete collection of Lewis’ publications on the wall shelves, and on the other side a collection of Lewis’ favorite books (such as the works of George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, and Boethius, as examples).



 photo sect2A_zps2a95ea75.jpg


 photo sect2B_zps0f505c38.jpg
The Parlor (above and below). Map of Narnia on wall, above fireplace.


 photo sect2C_zps2b2a9087.jpg


 photo sect2D_zps4869f3e6.jpg
Above: Upstairs rooms
Below: 2 views of the kitchen.



 photo sect2E_zps3feb04e4.jpg


 photo sect2F_zps402c3f93.jpg


There is a warm and peaceful ambience in the house. Accentuating the furnishings, walls and ledges are decorated with reminders of Lewis (known to his friends and family as Jack), his brother Warren (known as Warnie), Lewis’ wife, Joy, her sons (Lewis’ step-sons) Douglas and David, the Moores, Fred Paxford, and various friends and extended family members’ framed photographs. The library even displays the Lewises marriage certificate. A photo in the kitchen includes one of Lewis’ favorite cats, named “Tom.” Sitting at the dining table, it is easy to imagine Jack and Joy playing scrabble (either in Latin, or Saxon). The dining room also displays the Lewis typewriter, a very well-used Royal portable (which will have its own subsequent essay). Through a month of days, I found my favorite resting spaces in the kitchen, the parlor, and the garden. The caretaker of The Kilns (officially, the Warden) graciously decorates all the rooms with flower arrangements. A modern refrigerator stands discreetly near the vintage “Aga” gas stove, attesting to the coexisting present and past. Like the college buildings within Oxford University, the strong sense of the historic revolves around references to the liminal moment. These are contiguous places of community and of communion.



 photo sect3A_zps8f1f2fb2.jpg


 photo sect3B_zps140de88e.jpg


 photo sect3C_zps15db4331.jpg


 photo sect3D_zpsf38fe3bc.jpg
This very sociable cat's nickname is "Warnie."


 photo sect3E_zps98c1569b.jpg


 photo sect3F_zps97866200.jpg
The Dining Room


Risinghurst is the neighborhood in which The Kilns is situated. Among centuries-old stone houses, there are clusters of semi-detached town houses and converging lanes. Boarding an Oxford city bus daily, along Kiln Lane, reminders lent themselves to context. The eastern edge of Oxford encompasses the home of C. S. Lewis, some of the beloved haunts of writers called The Inklings, along with the poet Shelley- but it’s also a district filled with houses and shops, apartments and markets, and busy roads. And the paths woven of antiquated passages and new pavement connect The Kilns with University buildings, churches, pubs, and the city Lewis knew as student, teacher, and author.



 photo end1_zpsaa9c4314.jpg


 photo end2_zpsc34d6167.jpg


 photo end3_zps4386bbdd.jpg


3 comments:

Sharon said...

Welcome back!I have missed your essays.It must have been so very wonderful to visit England and to stay where C.S.Lewis once lived! :)~Sharon Goemaere

crofter said...

I really liked the pot rack by the stove in the kitchen! I just can't imagine getting to spend that much time there. Just wonderful, and thank you for sharing.

economy pens said...

I missed your posts, too! It was well worth the wait to see this one - stunning images and warm reflections as always.