• Tue. May 21st, 2024

Eagle and Child: Pub made famous by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien ‘could reopen’

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 22, 2022

The Oxford University college which owns the Eagle and Child pub said reopening it was 'definitely a possibility'.

The pub in St Giles, owned by St John's College, closed with all others on the first Covid lockdown in March 2020 and has never reopened.

The poor state of the building at that time led to fears that it may never re-open as a pub or as a pub/boutique hotel as the college had planned.

Read again: Eagle and Child has been left to rot

St John’s principal bursar Zoe Hancock told BBC Radio Oxford's Kat Orman programme that there was “definitely a possibility” that the Eagle and Child could reopen as a refurbished pub rather than the more ambitious scheme of converting the rooms above it into a small hotel.

Oxford Mail:

She said: "We realise it's a really important place and that it does need to reopen."

The bursar added: "We think the hotel is an excellent idea, it's absolutely right for Oxford… We're now faced with a cost of living crisis and we're just trying to tease out whether we should keep going with that idea… or just look at a pub operator."

Ms Hancock revealed that in January St John’s had reached an agreement with another company for the pub/hotel scheme, but that company had recently withdrawn leaving it “back to square one”.

“The college purchased it in 2004 from another Oxford college,” she added.

“It was running very successfully, but the idea of people being able to stay there was very attractive.

"It hasn’t been left to rot but there are plans to do extensive renovations. A hotel is an excellent idea, but a new provider only withdrew last month and we are considering our options.”

Read again: Lamb & Flag will reopen next month

Fantasy writers JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis met regularly at the Eagle and Child as part of the Inklings writers' group, and also met at the Lamb & Flag on the other side of the street, which is due to reopen this month.

Oxford Mail:

The Eagle and Child had been let to the Young’s pub chain, which had agreed to the boutique hotel scheme before the onset of Covid but pulled out in 2021.

Latterly it had been run by M&B as part of the Nicholson’s brand, but staff working there when it closed in 2020 described it as being in very poor condition, with dry rot and antiquated cellar equipment. Since then it has stood empty.

Shaun Gunner, from the Tolkien Society, spoke of the pub’s importance to followers of the author who flocked to Oxford every year to see places, including the Eagle and Child, associated with him.

He backed the idea of a boutique hotel above the pub and hoped it would reopen in time for Oxonmoot 2023, the annual gathering in the city scheduled for August 31-September 3.

Oxford Mail:

The pub’s original features, including the alcoves at the front, must be preserved as demanded by the building’s listed status.

Read more: New bus gates will be like roadblocks

Dave Richardson said the pub had declined in recent years when it had not featured in the Good Beer Guide, and predicted a bright future if it became a real ale venue again.

Read more from this author

This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.ffrench@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailAndyF