It’s the 125th birthday of C.S. Lewis on Wednesday 29 November. We’re celebrating the children’s authors’ connections to The Malverns with a Narnia Gas Lamp Story Trail being hosted 24-30 November, a Gas Lamp window art project, as well as Narnia-themed activities at the Great Malvern Christmas Festival on Saturday 25 November 2023. Image copyright: Jan Sedlacek at Digitlight Photography
Great Malvern Narnia Gas Lamp Story Trail
Our historic gas lamps in Great Malvern are undergoing their annual refurbishment and are ready to celebrate the 125th birthday of C.S Lewis from 24 – 30 November. To see them for yourself, as well as some other C. S. Lewis landmarks, take the Narnia gas lamp story trail around Great Malvern. Find all the gas lamps and discover the tale of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Creatives Connect C. S. Lewis 125 Window Art Trail
MHDC are joining forces with Creatives Connect, a local artists group, to deliver an innovative arts project to mark the 125th birthday of C.S. Lewis. The acclaimed author is said to have drawn inspiration from Malvern’s gas lamps and stunning landscape when he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia.
Participating shops and businesses will receive a stencil of a gas lamp, to be displayed in their window from 24 – 30 November, working with local artists to create a display of decorated windows to commemorate one of our most illustrious and best-loved authors.
Find out more about the Creatives Connect Art Trail here.
Narnia Theme at Great Malvern Christmas Festival on Saturday 25 November 2023
This years Great Malvern Christmas Festival will have Narnia themed activities:
- Narnia-themed Lantern Parade
- FREE Face Painting at The Lantern (Mount Pleasant Hotel) 11am-3pm
- Storytelling throughout the day at Malvern Library
- Art Display at Malvern Library
- Animatronic Polar Bear – see festival schedule here
- Narnia Colouring Table at Heidi’s Toys & Puzzles 10am-5pm
- Great Malvern Priory
- C.S Lewis Walk
Malvern Hills Literary Walk – Lewis Loop
Join lecturer and tour guide Dan Johnson on this guided walk around the Malvern Hills, taking in spots connected to legendary fantasy author C. S. Lewis.
The walk is circular starting and ending at the Wyche Cutting, heading up to the Worcestershire Beacon summit, then following the Narnia has lamps past St. Ann’s Well Cafe and Lewis & Tolkien’s favourite pub The Unicorn Inn to Great Malvern. After stops at Malvern Priory (with the original gas lamp) & Malvern College (where Lewis was a pupil), the loop returns south, following more gas lamps back up to the Wyche Cutting.
The walk is accompanied by tales of literary legends and some of the best views in the West Midlands.Find out more
Take The C. S. Lewis Chronicles of Malvernia Walking Story
Who was C. S. Lewis?
Clive Staples Lewis, or ‘Jack’ to his friends and family, was born in Belfast in 1898 and had a vivid imagination and storytelling flare from a young age. He loved the anthropomorphic stories of Beatrix Potter as well as Norse, Greek and Irish Mythology. After his education in Ireland, Malvern and Oxford, Lewis was a prolific writer along with his literary friendship group ‘Inklings’ that included J. R. R. Tolkien. In addition to writing scholarly pieces and books on religion Lewis is best known for writing the Chronicles of Narnia. The seven book series about four siblings who, having been evacuated to the English countryside during WWII, find themselves in a magical, wintery fantasy land of talking animals, witches and royalty.
C. S. Lewis in Malvern
C. S. Lewis first encountered Malvern as a schoolboy in 1911 when he was enrolled in the prep school Cherbourg and then later into Malvern College where he won a scholarship. Lewis’s experiences at school in Malvern were mixed, as he struggled with his departure from his home in Ireland and to get along with the pressures of early 1900’s private boys school traditions. Whilst at the school Lewis spent lots of time in the sanctuary of the grand college library reading extensively and developed his love for ancient Scandinavian literature and Icelandic sagas which went on to inspire his later work on The Chronicles of Narnia.
Lewis’s time at Malvern College may also have been what planted the seed for one of the most iconic scenes in The Chronicles of Narnia. As a student at Malvern College Lewis would have attended regular services at Great Malvern Priory. Great Malvern is still heavily populated with Victorian Gas lamps, one particular lamp beside a fir tree can be seen through the wardrobe-like west door of Malvern Priory and gives a picture perfect view of what Lewis may have imagined when he wrote the introduction to Narnia. Other local tales report that one winter evening, on the way home from drinking at Great Malvern pub The Unicorn with friend J R R Tolkien, Lewis spied one of the many lamp posts glowing through the falling snow and remarked that it would make and excellent opening for a book.
Malvern’s gas lamps are unusual for the fact that there are so many of them in rural locations, as old gas lamps were usually associated with the murky streets of big cities like London. Malvern’s gas lamps, sitting with a backdrop of rolling hills and greenery may have given the impression of an object transported out of place, or as the last point where one reality merges into the next. Lewis certainly commented on Malvern’s collection of the lamps and, as they are so connected with the town where he spent some formative years, it certainly seems possible that they provided some inspiration for the famous light that signalled the point past which magic could be found.
Many of the gas lamps have been carefully restored and are still in working order. Get immersed in Malvern’s history and take the gas lamp trail – there is a dedicated leaflet available at Great Malvern Tourist Information Centre. Or to speak to the experts in Great Malvern’s history, including links to C S Lewis, why not book in a guided tour with Great Malvern Civic Society.