Records of the Lost World of the Inklings


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
This thread is intended to be primarily bibliographic. It should be, in the main, an annotated list of sources for the real-world locations known to J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. The period concerned may be considered to be 1886 (the date of Charles Williams' birth) to 1973 (the date of Tolkien's death), but I don't suppose we will have to be ultra strict about that. The locations will be primarily places in the British Isles but may also include France (where Tolkien and Lewis served in the Great War), Switzerland (where the young Tolkien went on a walking tour), etc. Please don't derail the thread by talking about (e.g.) places that remind you of Middle-earth or Narnia but that have no genuine connection with any of the three authors.

Contributors are requested not just to list items, but to state, briefly or at length, why they believe their submitted items belong in this thread. Probably this list will mostly focus on books, but web sites, paintings, magazine articles, nature or travel documentaries, movies, radio broadcasts that have been archived, and so on could also be appropriate. If a movie has significant footage of some place known to Tolkien, for example, it might be well to mention it. Do any of the Powell-Pressburger films qualify? The list will be most helpful if the item focuses on a place as it was in the time of the Inklings.

Some locations that might be featured include Oxfordshire, the Malvern Hills, London (where Williams worked), etc.

This thread was inspired by a remark in a brand-new book that I've just begun to read, John Garth's The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-earth (Frances Lincoln, 2020): "The investigation [of locations Tolkien new and that may have inspired his writing] helps us to understand the world he knew -- now rapidly receding into a lost past" (p. 6). Garth's book features drawings and paintings by Tolkien, maps, recent photographs, etc.

Another key book is Douglas Gilbert and Clyde S. Kilby's C. S. Lewis: Images of His World (Eerdmans, 1973), which has photos and text relating to Lewis's Belfast childhood and his later residence at the Kilns in Oxford, his walking tours, Cambridge, etc. There are photos of Tolkien, Williams, Owen Barfield, and other Inklings. Gilbert may be best known now for his photographs of Bob Dylan!

Lewis's published letters include descriptions of some of his walking tours, descriptions of The Kilns, etc. The most complete edition of his letters is a three-volume set edited by Walter Hooper and published by HarperCollins (2000-2007):

1.Collected Letters Vol. I: Family Letters 1903-1931
2.Collected Letters Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts, and the War 1931-1949
3.Collected Letters Vol. III: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963

But an item for this thread need not deal specifically with the Inklings, if it does deal with the physical world they knew. Here are three examples:

June Lewis-Jones's Fairford, in the Images of England Series (Tempus, 2007). Photos and text of a place that was a destination of a walking tour around 1945.

J. C. Masterman's To Teach the Senators Wisdom, or An Oxford Guide-Book (Hodder & Stoughton, 1952), intended primarily for Americans

Life magazine 20 Sept. 1943, with article "Cambridge University: Thought prospers amid beauty of stone and river bank," pp. 95-103, with photos of architectural highlights, dons (cover photo of Charles Theodore Seltman, archaeologist), etc.

This thread may be of related interest:

Hesitantly, I suggest Murray's Copsford. The setting is Sussex, which, so far as I know is lacking in Inklings resonances. However, the very strong emphasis on landscape, flora, etc. in its rural setting seemed to me relevant.

Veneman and Poe's The Inklings of Oxford (Zondervan, 2009) is a photo book aimed, I suppose, primarily at American admirers of Tolkien and Lewis. I would be interested in the thoughts of British examiners of the book, if any were available.


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