An Old Pictorial Map of Central Oxford (Are There Links to C.S. Lewis’ Fiction?)

Oxford Broad StreetA couple of months ago, I wrote about “‘The Country Around Edgestow’: A Map from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength by Tim Kirk.” Tim Kirk’s fantasy map was part of an early Mythlore article, “Arthurian & Cosmic Myth in That Hideous Strength” by Margaret Hannay (1970). I have confessed before that I have tried to work out some of the local (i.e., the ones on Earth) places in C.S. Lewis’ Ransom Cycle. Though I spent a day hiking with Rev. Stephen Winter–the That_Hideous_Strength Indie art by Gibberish17Wisdom from the Lord of the Rings” blogger–hoping to feel Lewis’ real schoolboy environment of Malvern and environs behind Dr. Ransom’s earthly home base, I am ill equipped to succeed in this quest. But in writing my article, “What is the Significance of Worc(h)ester in C.S. Lewis’ Ransom Cycle?,” I became intrigued by the possibilities of real places in C.S. Lewis’ mind that sit behind his fictional English towns and countrysides.

One of Lewis’ key terran fictional places is “Edgestow,” the home of Bragdon Wood, Bracton College, and the literary centre of the events in That Hideous Strength. In my reading about Lewis and Arthurian literature, I happened upon Margaret Hannay’s piece, which included Tim Kirk’s map of “The Country Around Edgestow.” As a reading tool, I have come to like this fairly detailed Edgestow pictorial map. With the help of Mythlore editor Janet Brennan Croft, Tim Kirk kindly gave me permission to share the map on A Pilgrim in Narnia. You can download a PDF of Hannay’s article with Kirk’s map in context here. And there is a clearer, zoom-able version of the map here

Continuing on my irresponsible musings like “What is the Significance of Worc(h)ester in C.S. Lewis’ Ransom Cycle?” and connections between Lewis’ real life hills and towns in his fiction, I found Tim Kirk’s map opened up some imaginative possibilities for me–even if they did not answer all the questions I would like to ask. During the pretty great discussion that followed that post, Tolkien historian John Garth–having recently written a visual and literary history, The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien–asked this perceptive question: “There’s quite a bit of Oxford in that map, isn’t there?”

Since I lack the artistic and geographic skills to really capture that comparison or assess it if I saw it, I left the question behind. And then, in a box of materials from one of C.S. Lewis’ past students, Dr. E.L. Edmonds, I found this map tucked into an old guidebook. There is a bit of damage and my photography skills are limited, but it certainly does give some scope for imaginative comparison with Tim Kirk’s Edgestow map. I will allow you good folk to have fun making links and noting differences.

Oxford Centre Pictorial Map

If you drag and drop the map into most browsers, you should be able to make it bigger to look for details.

And because it can be fun to note a change in perspective, time, and technology, you may enjoy this interactive aerial photograph that gives a 360° view of Oxford. Scrolling over with your mouse will let you explore various sites of Oxford, but it is even cooler with your phone or tablet, as the camera rolls as you do (If your experience of WordPress does not load the interactive photo, click through to Facebook you can see the picture).

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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14 Responses to An Old Pictorial Map of Central Oxford (Are There Links to C.S. Lewis’ Fiction?)

  1. Will Vaus says:

    Dear Brenton,

    This is fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

    The first thing that strikes me on comparing the map of Edgestow and the map of Oxford is that the Kilns is located, in relation to Oxford, approximately where St. Anne’s is in relation to Edgestow.



  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Any chance of persuading Tim Kirk to a guest post or interview sharing his thoughts and memories about how he arrived at his map?


    • For those that visit later, it is a That Hideous Strength 1st edition with Lewis’ signature to George Orwell and his wife as a review copy. A stunning piece!
      I have to say that is a pretty cool set of circumstances! I don’t understand the red book on the left…. Folio reprint of some kind?
      Frankly, I have to share this. Too cool.


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Amidst the fascinating note nestles: “Housed in a custom half morrocco clamshell box.” I take it that that is what the red (apparent) book is!

        Liked by 1 person

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