Plans to extend 'Narnia' church into graveyard upset relatives

The Oxford Times: Jennifer Carpenter and other residents in the churchyard at Holy Trinity Buy this photo » Jennifer Carpenter and other residents in the churchyard at Holy Trinity

PLANS to extend an historic Oxford church where Narnia author CS Lewis is buried could be abandoned after concerns were raised about the “decimation” of graves.

Tim Stead, vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry, unveiled plans for an extension to the building earlier this year.

He said the church needed to expand to create storage, meeting and vestry space, as well as disabled toilets and room for a permanent CS Lewis exhibition.

But residents and relatives of those buried in the 15 grave spaces which could be affected by the building project have opposed the plans.

Mr Stead said the level of opposition revealed at Tuesday night’s meeting had forced the Parochial Church Council to consider whether it will pursue any extension plans at all.

He said: “There has been a very strong expression of opposition, and after the meeting, the PCC will have to go away and decide whether or not to go ahead with this.

“We have a church which is bursting out of its current facilities, but there’s a very restricted area we can build on, and if we can’t build on graves it’s very possible we will say we won’t be building at all.”

  • CS Lewis, a lecturer at Oxford University, wrote The Chronicles of Narnia series, which went on to sell more than 60 million copies worldwide. He lived at The Kilns, Risinghurst, for 33 years until his death in 1963. The US-based CS Lewis Foundation now owns the bungalow, and a blue plaque was put up there in 2008. The house featured in the 1993 film Shadowlands, about Lewis’s life and marriage to American Joy Gresham. There is a Narnia-themed stained-glass window at the church where Mr Lewis used to worship.

Jennifer Carpenter, 69, is the great-niece of Frances and Josia Coppock, who are buried in the area which could be affected.

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She said: “Architecturally it will be a disaster, but the main concern was the fact so many graves would be what we consider to be decimated.”

She said residents had been shocked at the size of the proposed extension, which she said was almost as big as the church itself.

She added: “It will be built over the bodies of so many people who still have relatives in the village.”

The extension would avoid the graves of CS Lewis and Oxford Eye Hospital founder Robert Doyne, but Ms Carpenter said those with relatives in affected graves thought the same respect should also be paid to their loved ones.

Mr Stead said the PCC would meet on January 30 to make a decision on how to proceed.

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