Kilnswatch: Later History of the Kilns Property

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 76, 1998 The C. S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

With Mrs. Moore contributing, the Lewises’ 1930 dream came true. Through the years that followed, the brothers made occasional changes in the house and grounds but left the two kilns where they had stood since before 1880. Perhaps those large conical kilns gave Lewis the image of the large, conical tombs where Shasta spent the night in The Horse and His Boy. That story was written in 1950, exactly 20 years after Lewis first saw the two old kilns.

After C. S. Lewis’s death in 1963, Maureen Moore inherited the property and sold it for development, saving The Kilns itself on a triangular wedge of land approximately 160 by 190 by 100 feet. Where the orchard and greenhouse used to be, seven houses went in. An eighth house was built in the Kilns front yard, between The Kilns and the pond. The gravel driveway became a tarmac cul de sac named Kilns Lane, serving all nine houses. Fortunately, the benevolent owner of the eighth house eventually made the pond and remaining woods a public nature reserve.

When Warren died in 1973 Maureen sold The Kilns to the Thirsk family. After a decade the Thirsks sold their well-tended house to what is now called the C. S. Lewis Foundation, and a decade of misuse ensued. Student renters came and went. Neighbors say they complained about loud parties and assured Stan Mattson that he could rent to responsible university personnel for £900, but he answered that as a dormitory the house brought in £1200.

After the decade of benign neglect, Mattson installed Michael Ward, head of the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society — who resides and tutors there today, supervising occupants.

Although Mattson issues emergency appeals for Kilns expenses every year, he has made inquiries to at least one neighbor about possibly buying another house. This is surprising, because house prices on Kilns Lane range from £250,000 to £280,000.