Holy Trinity Church
Dedicated to preserving a much loved village church in a city

Friends of Holy Trinity Church

History of the Building.

The story of how this church came to be built is an interesting one. At first sight, it looks like a mediaeval church and visitors are often surprised to find that it dates from much more recent times. On June 9th 1847, Bishop Wilberforce, in St Aldate’s church, urging the need for a church in Headington Quarry, preached a sermon. Appeals for money described this place as 'a hamlet, the peculiar circumstances of which demand the sympathy and assistance of.... Christian neighbours." Sir Gilbert Scott designed the church in the then popular Decorated Gothic style of the 14th century and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce laid the foundation on 19+h June 1848. The stone was quarried from Quarry Farm Pit and the church came into being when Bishop Wilberforce consecrated it,, on 22nd November 1849. To mark the 150th Anniversary of the church's consecration, a book was researched and produced. It is available at a cost of £5 from the back of the church.A new organ was installed in 1992 (built by Kenneth Tickell of Northampton). The organ previously stood in what is now the Lady Chapel. The colours and pipe shades were designed by Elias Polomski (curate 1990-1994). A great deal of refurbishment was carried out in the early 1990s, when the whole church was redecorated, the stone work cleaned, much of the floor was renewed, new lighting was installed and the bosses were regilded. Two clergy stalls were added and the roof was boarded due to the decay of the original plaster; (this had begun to fall down in an alarming manner; on one occasion narrowly missing the vicar as he knelt at his stall). Pulling the altar out from the east wall allowed for westward celebrations. Old and decaying curtains were removed and in 1994 the new altar tapestry was hung. This was also designed by Elias Polomski and is based on the Rublev Ikon of the Holy Trinity. It depicts the three angels who visit Abraham in Genesis 18. The outer panels of the tapestry represent the rocks, oak trees, and ponds of Shotover, which lies to the east of the church. It took over 2000 hours to complete the tapestry; the work having been undertaken by skilled volunteers within the parish.

The Lady Chapel
After the death of Ronald Head (vicar 1956-1990) a collection was made for the provision of a Lady Chapel. His family and others contributed to the altar and chairs, which were designed by Elias Polomski and made by Hugh Croft of Devon. Separate gifts provided the carpet chandelier, the Ikon (from Athens) and the antique Persian lamp and chain. The flower stand was originally a piece of Magdalen Bridge (rescued by former Vicar Christopher Hewetson when repairs were in progress at the bridge). The Statue of The Virgin and Child is a copy of a French Gothic statue in the Victoria and Albert Museum.Stained GlassThe East window, above the altar, was inserted in 1951 as a memorial to those of the parish who died in the Second World War. It was designed by Sir J. Ninian Comper, whose mark (a strawberry) can be seen in the bottom right hand corner. The window depicts Christ in Glory. The insignia at the top is that of Holy Trinity and the two lower trefoils contain the crests of Lord Nuffield and the Diocese of Oxford. The Rev. A. Dalton, Vicar of the Parish from 1867-1870 had placed the first piece of stained gloss in the church in this window, the centrepiece of which (a Gothic crucifixion) was later installed in the Lady Chapel.The stained glass window by the pulpit was installed in 1910 in memory of the Rev. P. Longland (Vicar 1870-1891) and his daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who died at the age of fourteen. The picture is of an angel who holds the text from St John "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son". The text was the title of a book of sermons preached here by the Revd P. Longland and published in 1897.The baptistry window depicts the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Font (showing the font of this church), together with the Virgin and Child. The window dates from 1916 and is a memorial to Kate Johnston, wife of Charles Johnston (Vicar 1891-1916)The windows in the chancel depict St Andrew (Patron Saint of the Parish) and Saint Philip. They were installed in memory of the Reverend Philip Doyne, (Vicar from 1916-1924). The windows were incorrectly assembled in the workshop and each Saint has the Gospel scene belonging to the other!
The Narnia window was installed in the North aisle in 1991. It is a memorial to the children of George and Kathleen Howe who died tragically young. There are separate notes on this window and the CS Lewis connection. The Howe bequest also paid for the new roof and the organ.

Other Memorials

The credence table by the altar is a memorial to the Rev. Eric Bleiben (Vicar 1935-1947). The piscina on the South side of the altar was made by Harry Kimber as memorial to his mother, Ann Elizabeth Kimber. Anne was sacristan at Holy Trinity for many years and was succeeded by her son Charlie who was sacristan and verger for 50 years (1949-1999). The bench in the C.S. Lewis corner commemorates William Morris (died 1933), sexton and verger for forty years.


The churchyard cross dates from 1920 and is a memorial to those of this parish who died in the 1914-1918 War. Their names are inscribed on a stone tablet in the porch. The churchyard contains the memorials of Richard Pether and his family, relatives of Lord Nuffield, who commemorated them on the west wall inside the church. In the churchyard, also, can be found the grave of William Merry Kimber, famous as the 'Father' of the English morris dancing tradition. Another famous grave is that of Robert Doyne, the prominent eye surgeon. Also buried here is C.S. Lewis, a member of the congregation of Holy Trinity for over thirty years, together with his brother Warren Hamilton Lewis.

Clive Staples Lewis
Born 29th November 1898 in Belfast; died 22nd November 1963 in Oxford. Buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, where he was a member of the congregation for over thirty years. C.S. Lewis, or Jack, as he preferred to be known, came to study at University College in Oxford in 1917. His degree was interrupted by service in the First World War but he returned in January 1919 and took a triple first. He became a fellow of Magdalen College, where he proved an excellent teacher and published a great deal of important work on sixteenth and seventeenth century literature.He first came to live in Headington in 1922, at 14, Holyoake Road, the home of Mrs Moore, mother of a friend killed in action and her daughter Maureen. In 1932 Lewis's elder brother Warren (Warnie) retired from the army and returned to live with Jack. The household moved to 'The Kilns' a large house in Kiln Lane, Headington. The houses in Lewis Close now stand on ground which was once part of Lewis's garden at 'The Kilns'. Throughout his early life, Lewis found himself alternately drawn to Christianity and repelled by it. He took part in many discussions on the nature of religion, with such friends as Hugo Dyson, Charles Williams and J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of 'The Lord of the Rings '. There were also discussions with Tolkien and other members of the "Inklings', which started at University College but later transferred its meetings to the Eagle and Child pub in St Giles, where members met to read and discuss their writing. One night, in 1929 Lewis 'gave in and admitted that God was God and knelt and prayed'. He was, he later said, 'the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.' His first ever sermon was preached in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on 22nd October 1939, soon after the start of the Second World War. The idea of writing the 'Screwtape Letters' came to him following an 8-00 a.m. communion service at Holy Trinity church. He first preached at Holy Trinity at evensong on 29th March 1942, his subject being 'Religion and Pleasure.' In 1943 he preached on 'Forgiveness' and in 1944 on 'Miracles'. There were a number of further addresses in the next few years. At this time he was becoming famous outside Oxford, largely as a result of his publications, 'The Problem of Pain' in 1940 and his broadcasts on BBC radio on 'What Christians Believe.' These talks, delivered with the clarity and focus drawn from his years of doubt, caused immense interest and drew many others to Christianity. Although Lewis earned quite a lot of money from his talks it is known that he gave most of his earnings away to worthy causes and individuals who needed help. His surroundings at work and home remained fairly austere. 1950 saw the publication of his first Chronicle of Narnia, 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and established him as one of the most original writers of his day. Now regarded as classic children's literature, the Narnia books have also drawn children to understand the Christian interpretation of death and resurrection through their allegorical stories. Mrs Moore died in 1951 and was buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity. In 1954, aged 56, Lewis accepted the Chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. In that year, also, his edition of 'English Literature in the Sixteenth Century' was published. Lewis had rooms at Magdalene College in Cambridge but tended to return to 'The Kilns' for weekends and holidays, which enabled him to keep an eye on his brother. He also continued to attend Holy Trinity. Lewis's brother Warnie was churchwarden at Holy Trinity from 1953-1957. He and Lewis used to sit in a pew which is beside the pillar to St George (a plaque marks the spot). The seats were well chosen to give the brothers a clear view of the church but to keep them largely invisible from the rest of the congregation. Lewis usually arrived early and left just before the end of the service. Lewis's relationship with Joy Gresham was the subject of the film 'Shadow lands'. At first, the marriage was one of convenience, to allow Joy to stay in this country, but it developed into a deep love which was all the more precious because of Joy's battle to overcome cancer. She died at the Radcliffe Infirmary on July 13th 1960. By her own request her body was cremated and a poem by Lewis, 'Epitaph', was cut into a marble plaque which is near where her ashes were scattered at Oxford Crematorium. The intense sorrow which Lewis felt at her death was translated into his work 'A Grief Observed' published under a pseudonym in August 1960. In 1961, Lewis was diagnosed as having an enlarged prostate gland. Doctors decided that his heart was too weak for an operation. He eventually had to resign his Chair at Cambridge. In his final months Father Head, the then Vicar of Holy Trinity, visited him twice weekly to give communion. Lewis showed a calm approach to death: 'I have done all I wanted to and I'm ready to go,' he told his brother. He died suddenly on Friday 22nd November 1963, the same day as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was also the 114th anniversary of the consecration of Holy Trinity Church. His funeral took place on Tuesday 26th November. On his tombstone Warnie had engraved the words from 'King Lear' which had been on the calendar on the day their mother had died, when Jack Lewis was only ten years old; 'Men must endure their going hence'. Warnie was buried beside his brother in 1973.

The Narnia Window
The window, dedicated on 2nd July 1991, was paid for by the Howe bequest. George and Kathleen Howe worshipped regularly at Holy Trinity church for many years and lost their two children at a young age. Their son William sang in the choir. The Howe estate was divided between Holy Trinity church and Lord William's school in Thame, where William Howe was a pupil when he died. Holy Trinity was asked to install a stained glass window in the church, with a free choice as to its subject. As the window was to be a memorial to the children it was clear that Narnia would be a very appropriate theme, since the Narnia books deal in a symbolic and allegorical way with the themes of life and death. The window is placed close to the pew where C.S. Lewis habitually sat and, since Lewis lived in this parish and attended the church of Holy Trinity for over thirty years, it is very appropriate that his contribution to classic children's literature should also be commemorated in this place.The window was designed and made by Sally Scott. The design, in engraved gloss, gives a delicate effect and changes as the light shines through it. Aslan the Lion is shown as a sun, this also emphasises his role in the story as a Christ-like figure, radiating light and life. The word Narnia appears amongst the rays of light coming from his mane, which emphasises his role as life giver to Narnia.The waterfall spanning the two main panes descends from his paw to show how he brings about the creation of Narnia. Also depicted are the castle Cair Paravel, Fledge, the flying horse, the magic apple tree (left panel) and a talking tree (right panel), with many of the other animals who feature in the stories.The gifts given to the children in Narnia are placed on a ledge at the bottom of the window; bottle, sword and shield, bow and arrow with the horn above, as we look past them into the land of Narnia.Three children from the parish Margaret Cooper, Rachel Wheeler and Richard Holden were used as models for the children in the window.