NARNIA author CS Lewis was regularly late to church but would sit right at the front.

This is one of the memories of the famous author and academic collected for a festival to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.

Interviews with three people who knew Lewis, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry for 30 years, have been recorded for the CS Lewis Jubilee Festival, from September 19 to 22.

Visitors to an exhibition at the church, where Lewis is buried, will be able to listen to the audio during the festival.

One of those interviewed was Ian Freemantle, now of Bristol, a member of the choir in the 1950s and 60s who attended Lewis’ funeral.

Mike Stranks, of the festival’s organising committee, said: “Ian has a memory of him at Evensong, which is the Sunday evening service.

“He always remembers Lewis coming in late and sitting right at the front of the church and leaving as soon as the sermon was over.

“He also remembers how few people were at his funeral – only 30 people. The reason for that is that Lewis died on the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated and our media was flooded with that.

“That meant the news of Lewis’ death was not announced until after his funeral.

“Ian is certain that JRR Tolkien was there. Tolkien had been one of Lewis’ longest and closest friends.

“He has got this vivid memory of marching out into the churchyard after a very simple funeral service and there were flakes of snow in the air, appropriate for someone who wrote about Narnia.”

A new play by Susie Stead called Through the Wardrobe Door: The Life of CS Lewis has been specially commissioned for the festival and includes extracts from the Narnia tales and milestones in Lewis’ life to be premiered on Friday, September 20 at 7.30pm.

Narnia-themed activities will keep families entertained in The Coach House in Quarry Road on September 21, from 10am-5pm.

The church is hosting a CS Lewis-themed service on Sunday, September 22, and the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, will attend.

Mr Stranks said: “He was a remarkable man who did many different things: children’s literature, he was an academic, he wrote books to explain the Christian faith.”

For a full list of events at the festival, visit



Clive Staples Lewis was born on November 29 in Belfast, Ulster, in 1898.
Lewis was a student at University College, Oxford, in 1917 and enlisted in the British army the same year.
From June 1921, he lived with his university roommate’s family in Headington Quarry. In August 1930, they moved to Western Road, Headington.
They bought The Kilns jointly in October 1930.
In 1925, Lewis was elected a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a tutor in English Language and Literature for 29 years. He left for Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1954.
He became a Christian in 1931.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, was published in 1950.
He died one week before his 65th birthday in 1963.