Report by Sandra Millsopp
Our next stop was at Lewis’s birthplace in Dundela Avenue in east Belfast. It is now occupied by a block of flats which has a blue plaque in memory of Lewis. From the house he could see Cavehill. The family had rented the house on the site, but in 1905 they moved to Little Lea. Before visiting this house we went to Belmont Tower. Originally a school, it now houses a small café and an exhibition of material on Lewis. Lewis did not attend this school. He was educated privately at home by his mother and by Annie Harper, a local teacher who lived in Cyprus Avenue. The only local school he attended was Campbell College during the winter of 1910.
After afternoon tea and scones the bus took us to see Little Lea, a private house on Circular Road which we could only view from the outside. Albert Lewis, the writer’s father built the house and the family moved in at Easter 1905. Lewis called it “a child’s delight”. His imagination was stimulated by the house, particularly as it had a door which led to the area under the roof. Here he wrote his first book at the age of 8.
The happy life at Little Lea changed in 1908 when his mother fell ill with cancer and died in August. He was sent to boarding school in England where he was very unhappy. His father brought him back to Belfast and he briefly attended Campbell College before returning to a different boarding school in England.
Our next stop was at St. Marks’s, Dundela where Lewis’ grandfather Rev. R. T. Hamilton was rector. Here Lewis was baptised and, as an adult, he and his brother installed stained glass windows in memory of their parents. We had not time to enter the church, but instead were taken to view the old rectory. Here the symbol of a lion’s head is on the door and Lewis must have been familiar with it as a child when he visited his grandfather.
Our final stop was at the library at the Holywood Arches. Here a sculpture has been erected in memory of Lewis. It is called “The Searcher”. It shows a man at an open wardrobe door. Mr. Smith explained that the figure is not intended to be Lewis, but rather Digory Kirk, a character from the first Narnia book, “The Magician’s Nephew”. On the back of the wardrobe is a representation of the lion, Aslan, and one of Lewis’s letters to a girl in Belfast called Ann Jenkins.
It was a most enjoyable afternoon, especially as we had some lovely autumn weather. The visit complemented the talk which Mr. Smith had given on the previous Thursday. Our next talk will be on 13th November at 8pm in the Good Templar Hall and the subject is airships.