Oxford Pubs: The Eagle & Child.

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The Eagle & Child

The Eagle & Child is a famous Oxford pub, best known for being the watering hole used by writers J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. The pub is just three minutes from the Ashmolean Museum and a staple for Oxford visitors, although it’s remained closed for close to four years. Things, however, are about to change! 

Important Note: The Eagle & Child is currently closed. It’s estimated the renowned pub will reopen its doors sometime in 2024/2025. The latest news about The Eagle & Child pub in Oxford is that it has been purchased by the Ellison Institute of Technology (EIT). The institute has hired Foster + Partners to renovate the pub, and the reopening is highly anticipated by Oxford residents with an interest in history and literature.

The Eagle & Chid is a beloved pub that has achieved global fame because of two people who used to meet there regularly: J. R. R Tolkien (who created The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and was a professor at Oxford) and C. S. Lewis (the pen behind The Chronicles of Narnia and also a tutor at the University). 

The Eagle & Child History

The Eagle & Child is sometimes referred to also as the Bird and Baby. The pub has been an endowment of University College to St. John’s College Oxford since the 17th century, although it’s been operated by Mitchells & Butlers as a Nicholson’s pub.

Although the pub is small and narrow, it has a reputed history. For example, it apparently served as lodgings for the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the English Civil War (1642 to 1649). Because Oxford was the Royalist capital, the pub served as a pay house for the army, with poy auctions frequently held in the courtyard. However, these claims have been questioned as the pub actually lies outside the city walls. One thing we know for sure: Oxford’s Eagle & Child already existed in 1864!

Oxford Pubs: The Eagle & Child - Interior.
An interior view of The Eagle & Child c. 2005.

Why Is It Called The Eagle & Child?

The name is believed to derive from the legend of Ganymede, a divine hero and ‘the most divine of mortals‘ who was abducted by the eagle of Zeus. There is, however, another interpretation: a reference to the crest of the Earl of Derby, which talks about the noble-born baby that was found in the nest of an eagle. 

Imagining Tolkien and Lewis at the Eagle & Child

Picture a crisp morning in mid-20th century Oxford, as Tolkien and Lewis, kindred spirits bound by a shared passion for mythology and fantasy, strolled through the cobbled streets. The scent of ancient tomes lingered in the air as they approached the warm embrace of the Eagle & Child, a haven nestled in the heart of the city.

Upon crossing the threshold, the duo would find solace in the dimly lit Rabbit Room, a cozy corner adorned with worn leather chairs and a fireplace crackling with stories of its own. The atmosphere hummed with the gentle clinking of pint glasses and the low murmur of spirited conversations.

As the day unfolded, the Eagle & Child became a crucible of creativity. Tolkien, with his pipe in hand, would regale the gathering with tales of Middle-earth, weaving intricate narratives of hobbits, elves, and the One Ring. Lewis, his wit as sharp as his intellect, would respond with musings on Narnia and the intricacies of faith interwoven into his fantastical worlds.

As the sun dipped below the Oxford spires, the denizens of the Eagle & Child bid farewell to another day of inspiration. Tolkien and Lewis, their creative spirits replenished, would step back into the Oxford twilight, leaving behind echoes of their literary legacy in the hallowed halls of the pub that became a timeless sanctuary for kindred souls.

Eagle & Child: Oxford: Inn sign. Image courtesy of pubgallery.co.uk and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Eagle & Child: Oxford: Inn sign. Image courtesy of pubgallery.co.uk and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Where is the the Eagle & Child pub?

The pub is located at 49 St Giles’, Oxford OX1 3LU, just a short walk from the Ashmolean Museum. Because of its convenient placement, it’s a popular touristic destination, particularly for literature lovers. 

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