AFTER ruling the roost at Christ Church for over a decade, the Very Rev Dr Christopher Lewis is preparing for retirement.

And when he and wife Rhona leave the Oxford University college in September, to start a new life in Suffolk, he will take his chickens and guinea fowl with him.

During the past 11 years, the Head of House and Dean of the Cathedral has welcomed many important visitors, including the Queen and the wife of the US president, Michelle Obama.

As Dr Lewis is 70 next month, he must retire and the vacancy for the Deanship of Christ Church is now being advertised.

He told the Oxford Mail: “I have had 11 very happy years here and it has been terrific but there comes a time when it is important to go gracefully.

“Before I came here I was Dean of St Albans for nine years and before that I was at Canterbury Cathedral for six-and-a-half years, where I was one of four canons.”

Dr Lewis, who taught at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, near Oxford, from 1976 to 1982, will not have any say in who his successor will be.

The father-of-three said: “There will be a search committee here at Christ Church and, following agreement with other members of the governing body, a name will be chosen.

“Some time in March, following interviews, a name will go to the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary, who represents the Queen in this process, and I expect an announcement will be made in the spring or early summer.”

According to the advertisment for the role, which has a stipend of £85,000, accommodation in the Deanery and an entertainment allowance, the Dean must be a priest of the Church of England, or of a church in full communion with the Church of England, and have been in holy orders for at least six years at the time of taking up the post.

Dr Lewis added: “The best thing about this place is the academic life of the college, involving graduates and undergraduates, and the daily life of the cathedral.

“Christ Church is one of the most outlooking colleges with its cathedral, meadow and picture gallery. People certainly like coming here.”

Dr Lewis said he was a keen vegetable gardener and enjoyed looking after seven chickens and four guinea fowl.

“There is also a 30-year-old tortoise called Sampras, named after the tennis player, but he is hibernating at the moment,” he added.

The deadline for applications is February 3 and interviews with shortlisted candidates will take place on March 17 and March 18.