Monday, October 11, 2010

Oxford...CS Lewis...Need I say More????

While on a recent trip to England, I was in Oxford to take a class. Kim, my friend, and I have attended the Oxford Experience three times and each time it has been WONDERFUL!!! We stay at Christ Church College in the dorms for a week, take a class and basically have free access to the school while there. Kim has blogged about it and you can check out the program in detail here

What I wanted to post about was a particular thing I did on my own while there that week. The last time we attended, I found in one of the bookshops a self-guided tour of CS Lewis’ Oxford. It included a map and information about each important site in the city of Oxford to CS Lewis. I decided that the next time I was there I would wake up one morning and hit the pavement, before all the tourists got there and see Oxford through Lewis’ eyes.

So as planned, Friday morning, the day before we left, I got up at 5:00 and got ready so that as soon as it was light enough I started my tour. Later when I told my kids about this, they thought I was crazy to be out at 5:45 by myself but I felt completely safe. I wanted to share it with you.
Blackwells Bookshop

The White Horse Pub
The Kings Arms
I started up on Broad Street in front of the famous Blackwell’s Bookshop. Just to the left of Blackwell’s, is a small Pub called The White Horse. This pub, along with The Kings Arms, which is just a very short distance from it, is where, during the war (WWII), the Inklings (a literary club that Lewis belonged to) would meet when they couldn’t get beer from their usual haunt, The Eagle and Child pub. There were so many service men in Oxford that pubs would run out of beer so the group would go to wherever they could find a drink while having their literary discussions. I will talk about the Inklings more later in this post.

Turf Tavern at the end of Bath Place

Holywell Street
Continuing on down Holywell Street, I came to a small side street called Bath Place. Here is another pub that was used in a beer shortage emergency called The Turf Tavern. Staying on Holywell, you come to the corner of Mansfield Road.

Lewis' first home in Oxford
Here on the right hand corner of Holywell and Mansfield is the first home that Lewis lived in when he first came to Oxford to study as a young man. He had this to say of his first experience in Oxford in December of 1916:

"My first taste of Oxford was comical enough. I had made no arrangements about quarters and, having no more luggage than I could carry in my hand, I sallied out of the railway station on foot to find either a lodging-house or a cheap hotel; all agog for "dreaming spires" and "last enchantments." My first disappointment at what I saw could be dealt with. Towns always show their worst face to the railway. But as I walked on and on I became more bewildered. Could this succession of mean shops really be Oxford? But I still went on, always expecting the next turn to reveal the beauties, and reflecting that it was a much larger town than I had been led to suppose.

Only when it became obvious that there was very little town left ahead of me, that I was in fact getting to open country, did I turn round and look. There behind me, far away, never more beautiful since, was the fabled cluster of spires and towers. I had come out of the station on the wrong side and been all this time walking into what was even then the mean and sprawling suburb of Botley. I did not see to what extent this little adventure was an allegory of my whole life. I merely walked back to the station, somewhat footsore, took a hansom, and asked to be driven to "some place where I can get rooms for a week, please." (From “Surprised By Joy”)

A short walk up Mansfield Road, I turned right on Jowett Walk and at the end of that street and to the left I came to St Cross Cemetery and Church. Some of Lewis’ close friends are buried here.

St Cross Church and Cemetery

St Cross Church is also famous as the site of Harriet Vain and Lord Peter Wimsey’s marriage in the great mystery series written by Dorothy L Sayers. Great Mysteries!!!

Going back past Jowett Street, and continuing a short distance the road narrows and I came to Longwall Street. This long wall, after which the street is named, is a large section of the original city wall of Oxford. Behind that wall is Magdalen (pronounced Maudlin) College.

Plaque I found while on my trek

Longwall Street-original city wall

River Cherwell
 As I followed Longwall Street to the end I entered High Street, which is the main street in the City. I turned left and walked past Magdalen College and went to the bridge that spans the River Cherwell that is called Magdalen Bridge.

Magdalen Tower
The as I turned back around from where I came, I could see one of the most beautiful views of Oxford, including Magdalen Tower that was built between 1490 and 1510. It stands more than 150 feet high. If you have seen the great movie, “Shadowlands”, with Anthony Hopkins, it is where the May Morning festival is held on May 1st that is depicted in the movie. I didn’t go into Magdalen College that morning but went back later in the day when it was opened. It is an amazingly beautiful College. Here are a few pictures of it.
Magdalen College

The Cloisters inside the Grounds
A favorite walk of Lewis' called Addisons path
      The building where his offices were
Deer Park in the College Grounds
The 2 center windows are the windows of his office.  It is in this office that he had a re-awakening of his Christian faith.
Now heading back up into the city on High Street, I passed several other important sites in CS Lewis’ life here.

Eastgate Hotel

Examination Rooms
 They are Eastgate Hotel, another meeting place of the Inklings, the Examinations rooms, where he along with other students go for their examines, and then you come to University College, which is the College Lewis attended as a young man.

View up High Street

University College

I then took a slight backtrack and detour from High Street down Queens Lane and passed several other Colleges’, New College, Queens College, and All Souls College, and the church where Lewis often attended, St. Peters-in-the-East.
St. Peters-in-the-East.

I then came to one of the most famous sites in Oxford. On both sides of the street is Hertford College, and a bridge connects the two buildings. It is known as “the Bridge of Sighs”.

The Bridge of Sighs

Bodliena Library
      Radcliff Camera

University Church of St Mary the Virgin
As I walked under the bridge I came out into the most amazing view of Oxford. In front of me was the Radcliff Camera, the Bodleian Library, the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, where you can climb to the top of the tower for a wonderful view of the city. It is here that Lewis delivered his famous war-time speech “The Weight of Glory”.
One more watering hole for the Inklings gang
I went from here back out to High Street passing Brasenose College, and the Mitre Hotel, another favorite spot of Lewis, JRR Tolkien and friends, and continued up the street towards Carfax (from the French word “carrefour” meaning “crossroads”) and turned right into Cornmarket Street.

Oldest Building in Oxford on Cornmarket Street

St Mary Magdalen's Church

I passed St Mary Magdalen’s Church which Lewis frequented, and I passed the Martyrs’ Memorial built in remembrance of the martyrs, Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley who were burned at the stake for their religious beliefs.
          Actual site of the martyr on Broad Street               
                                                          Martyr's Memorial
Randolph House Hotel-Best High Tea in the City!!!! 

The Eagle and Child or more affectionately called "The Bird and the Baby" by the members of the Inklings
I passed the Randolph Hotel where Kim and I had a fantastic High Tea. I really recommend you try this but you need reservations. It was so much fun and the food was scrumptious! It is located directly across the street from the world famous Ashmolean Museum. I continued a short distance and I came to the most famous “Lewis” pub, The Eagle and Child, which was the main gathering spot for the famous literary group, The Inklings.

Currently, the Quaker Meeting House, where Lewis and Joy were married the first time

Just a little further on up the same street I came to the place where Lewis and Joy Gresham were married. It is now a Quaker Meeting House but was at the time of their marriage the Registry Office.

This brought me to the end of my tour, (other than the later excursion into Magdalen College). As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Kim and I went to his home, The Kilns, a few days previous to this (see blog post of Sept. 17th ).
The Kilns, Lewis' home in Headington and Holy Trinity where he worshiped and is buried

I love the works of CS Lewis. I love his Christian insights, his knowledge of human behavior, and his writing skills that have entertained me countless times. Here is a man who, after his realization that what he had been advocating for many years of his life, i.e., that there was no God, then coming to know of God’s presence and love for him as a man, spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Christ’s Gospel. Just as the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, once he gained a testimony of the Gospel, he gave the rest of his life in the service of God and teaching others of this belief.

This was a very meaningful and personal experience for me to do this tour of Oxford. It was the perfect ending of the perfect week in Oxford.


Kim said...

We are on the same C.S. Lewis wavelength this week--have you seen my blog post that went up today? It goes well with your post, which I loved. Lots of great pics. I feel as if I went on your walk and I didn't even have to get up at 5:00 am!

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