he first article in this series (Knowing & Doing, Spring 2016) described Little Lea, the boyhood home of C.S. Lewis in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the fortunate circumstances in my own life allow me to see the house frequently. If not daily, certainly weekly I pass by and remember the events that took place there. The specific events that draw me to Lewis’s boyhood home include the many tours I lead of Lewis’s Belfast.
Recently I received an e-mail from a friend and enthusiastic reader of Lewis who participated in one of these tours. He indicated that the tour had added to his appreciation of Lewis. My friend noted that he had been only vaguely aware that Lewis was Irish. Rereading Lewis with a heightened awareness of the Irish background kindled in my friend a new enjoyment of his work. Similarly, I trust that reading this article will encourage some readers to delve deeper into Lewis’s background and maybe even make the trip to Ireland to see for themselves.
This article focuses specifically on Dundela Villas in East Belfast where Lewis was born and where he lived until 1905 before he and his family moved to Little Lea.
C.S. Lewis was born at Dundela Villas, on Dundela Avenue in East Belfast. The villas comprised two separate, semi-detached houses, each with its own separate entrance on a common site. The Lewis family lived in one of the villas, rented from Thomas Keown, a relative. In 1898, when Lewis was born, the location had a semi-rural feel to it. Dundela lies between the areas of Strandtown, Belmont, and Ballyhackamore to the east of the city. In 1898 the official boundary of the City of Belfast was extended to bring these outlying areas within the control of Belfast City Corporation (which has now become Belfast City Council). Today these areas are still identifiable by their specific names, but they have been subsumed within the outward march of the expanding city. Lewis’s parents, Albert and Florence (Flora) Lewis, moved into Dundela Villas following their marriage in 1894. At this location their two sons were born, Warren Hamilton Lewis (Warnie) and Clive Stapes Lewis (Jack).
Although the house in which C.S. Lewis was born no longer exists, the general area is not much changed. Both of the houses that shared the name Dundela Villas were demolished in 1953 to make way for a development of apartments that are now clearly marked as the site where Lewis was born.