C.S. Lewis “Space Trilogy”

These three first Pan editions of the Space Trilogy by Headington author, C.S. Lewis, are in our History of Headington collection.

The first book in the trilogy is Out of the Silent Planet (1938), which is set mostly on Mars (called “Malacandra”). In this book, the protagonist Elwin Ransom journeys to Mars to discover that Earth is exiled from the rest of the solar system. A long time ago, it fell to an angelic being known as the Bent Oyarsa, and now, to prevent contamination of the rest of the Solar System (known as “The Field of Arbol”), it is called “the silent planet” (or “Thulcandra”).

The next book is Perelandra (1943), which is set mostly on Venus. In this book, Elwin Ransom travels to an unspoiled Venus in which the first humanoids have just emerged.

The final book is That Hideous Strength (1945), which is set on Earth. On Earth, a scientific think tank called the N.I.C.E. (The National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments) is secretly in touch with demonic entities who plan to ravage and lay waste to planet Earth.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898–1963) was connected to Headington from June 1921, when his close friend, Janie Moore, and her daughter, moved to “Uplands” at 54 Windmill Road. Headington was his permanent home from 1929 when he purchased “The Kilns” in Risinghurst with his brother, Major Warren Lewis. The extensive grounds of this house, which was then out in the country, provided the inspiration for the Chronicles of Narnia, which started off as a tale told to children evacuated there from London in 1939. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was published nine years later in 1948.

He lived at The Kilns until his death in 1963.

British Butterflies Collection

We have a cabinet of British Butterflies in our Natural History Collection. It contains the following butterflies:

Top row: Dark Green Fritillary, Orange Tip, Chalkhill Blue, Comma, Adonis Blue, Green-veined White, Brimstone

Second row: Marbled White, Heath Fritillary, Small Skipper, Silver Washed Fritillary, Green Hairstreak, Marsh Fritillary, White Admiral

Third row: Tortoiseshell, Ringlet, Glanville Fritillary, Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Small White

Fourth row: Clouded Yellow, Large Heath, Holly Blue, Peacock, Common Blue, Wall Brown, Meadow Brown

Fifth row: Black-veined White, Grizzled Skipper, Small Copper, Painted Lady. Small Heath, Checkered Skipper, Large White

The UK has 59 species of butterflies. 57 of these are resident species of butterflies and two are regular migrants: the Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow. Five species of butterfly have become extinct in the last 150 years: the Mazarine Blue, Large Tortoiseshell, Black-veined White, Large Copper and Large Blue.

Butterflies and moths have been recognised as indicators of biodiversity. Their fragility makes them quick to react to change, and so their struggle to survive is a serious warning about our environment.

Davy Lamp

This Davy Lamp from Aberdare is part of our Design and Technology collection.

The flame safety lamp was invented by Sir Humphrey Davy in 1815, to address the problem of explosions caused by naked flames coming in contact with flammable gases in mines. The Davy lamp was fuelled by oil or naptha (lighter fluid), and the wick was contained in a metal gauze cylinder. If the lamp is placed in an explosive atmosphere, such as a mixture of air and methane gas as commonly found in a coal mine, the explosion that takes place when the flame contacts the gas is contained within the gauze mesh and does not cause a danger to the miners.

There were many manufacturers of Davy lamps, and many variations in the detail of their construction. The lamps normally had a cylindrical glass screen around the gauze, and a protective steel bonnet with air inlet holes. Early versions gave out less light than a naked flame candle, but designs improved so that by the 1930’s some types were several times brighter than a standard candle flame.

The lamp provided a crude test for the existence of gases, as the flame changed shape or burned with a blue tinge in the presence of flammable gases. In addition, the lamp could be used to check for low oxygen levels or concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide, as in these conditions the lamp flame would be extinguished. The lamp succeeded in reducing the incidence of explosions, but accidents still happened, such as when a lamp was dropped or broken.

Candlestick Telephone

This candlestick telephone is part of our Design and Technology collection.

Candlestick telephones gained popularity in the 1880s as the telephone became an important piece of technology for modern businesses. A standard candlestick phone included a base, stem, mouthpiece, and receiver. The phone’s heavy receiver, or speaker end, rested on a hooked perch when not in use.

Our candlestick telephone, like the majority of early candlesticks, has only a single switch for dialing an operator (some intercom or office phones had additional buttons for calling between locally networked telephones).

Due to the threat of contagious diseases like influenza and tuberculosis shortly after World War I, telephone producers developed mouthpieces made from glass or porcelain, which were thought to be more sanitary than Bakelite or rubber. These parts could be easily cleaned by unscrewing and boiling them, and employees of large companies sometimes carried their own mouthpieces to work.

Eventually, round 10-hole dials were mounted onto the center shaft of candlesticks, eliminating the need for calling an operator before dialing out. This rotary dial was patented by Almon Strowger in 1891. By the 1920s, dials were relocated to the telephone’s base, beginning a shift in telephone design that would ultimately lead to the cradle telephone.


We have an mbira in our Racial Justice Collection.

Mbira are a family of musical instruments which are traditional to the Shona people of Zimbabwe. They have a wooden board with attached staggered metal tines. They are played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs, the right forefinger, and sometimes the left forefinger.

The Pitt Rivers Museum website hosts a video of a conversation with Thabo Muleya who explains the cultural significance of the mbira instrument here. He explains how the instrument was used in celebrations and community events such as harvests, rain dances, weddings and funerals, as well as being used by spiritual seers and traditional healers. Mbira players would play the instruments while seers and healers were practising. When the country was colonised, the mbira was regarded with suspicion by Christian missionaries and converts.

The playing of the mbira “went underground”, resurfacing as a source of inspiration during the Zimbabwean struggle for independence up to 1980.

Defaced Votes for Women Coin

We have a defaced 1897 Queen Victoria penny in our Women’s Suffrage Collection.

The words “VOTES FOR WOMEN” have been stamped over the head of the queen.

It was thought that the suffragettes had copied the practice from anarchists, who had defaced coins with the phrase ‘Vive l’Anarchie’. It is not known how many coins were defaced – there are several examples in museums and private collections, but the effort required to deface a single coin means it is unlikely that many were made. It would have been very time-consuming to make, and rendered the coins very difficult to use in shops, as people would have been very wary about accepting them.

Almost all the coins with the suffragette countermarks are defaced on the head side, with the words printed across the face of the king

Cities of the future, civilisations from the past.

Butterfly Conservation Society

Tree Letters By Gabriel Hemery

Friends of the Earth

Tim Crisp

Pitt Rivers Museum

St Andrew’s Primary, 2050

Download St Andrew's Primary School 2050 ideas

Paul Wood

East Oxford Primary School

Pupils from East Oxford Primary School have been developing their own drawings and ideas about what their school might be like in 2050. You can explore their creative visions below!

Download PDF file

Tree Letters and Poems

Our Year Sevens at Cheney have been writing some letters and poems to their favourite Cheney trees for Gabriel Hemery’s Tree Letters project. You can enjoy some of these below!

Download the letters and poems in a PDF file

Jannat Azam - Year 6

Finbar Bradbury - Year 6

Saira Hasnath - Year 5

Daniella Drizi - Year 6

Wood Farm Primary School 2050

Pupils from Wood Farm Primary School have been developing their own drawings and ideas about what their school might be like in 2050. You can explore their creative visions below!

Stephana Sojan - Year 6

Merlin Monson - Year 6

Klaudia Stawinska - Year 6

Ronald Pilecki - Year 6

Arifa Hussain - Year 5

Millie Barrett-Hamilton - Year 6

Thecosmilia Fossil

These fragments of Thecosmilia Fossil were found at Rock Edge in Headington, and are part of our History of Headington collection.

Rock Edge is a remnant of the limestone quarries formerly worked extensively throughout Headington. The rocks exposed in the cliff face are of Upper Jurassic age, around 140-150 million years old.
It is the site of a former coral patch reef, where fossilised corals and mollusc shells can be seen. Towards the north-eastern end it becomes more layered with cemented limestones containing small ooliths (tiny rounded grains) and broken shell fragments. These represent the sandy sea-floor environment around the former coral reef.

Corals are invertebrate animals belonging to a large group of colourful and fascinating animals called Cnidaria. Other animals in this group that you may have seen in rock pools or on the beach include jelly fish and sea anemones. Thecosmilia is an extinct type of stony corals that lived from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous age.

Phaistos Disc

Our replica of the Phaistos Disc is part of our classics centre collection.

The Phaistos Disc consists of fired clay and is about 15 centimeters in diameter. It was found on 3 July, 1908 during excavation of the Minoan palace of Phaistos, near the south coast of Crete. The disc is one of the most famous Bronze Age finds and one of the great mysteries of Mediterranean archaeology. It contains over 240 spirally arranged human, animal and plant motifs that were printed with individual stamps. Its sophisticated manufacturing technology with movable type is in direct contrast to the uniqueness of the find. The use of reusable stamps only makes sense if used several times or even frequently. Practically everything that concerns the disc is controversial; this even includes the orientation of the writing and the language used.

The Minoan Civilisation flourished from about 2600 to 1100 BC on the island of Crete and surrounding islands. The civilisation was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of British archaeologist Arthur Evans. It has been described as the earliest of its kind in Europe.

The term “Minoan” refers to the mythical King Minos. Minos was associated in Greek mythology with the labyrinth and the Minotaur, which Evans identified with the site at Knossos (the largest Minoan site). According to Homer, Crete once had 90 cities.

Oxford in the Future, Tom Hayes

Creativity and Memory, Dan Holloway