The Eagle and Child

The Eagle and Child, nicknamed The Bird and Baby,[1] is a pub in St Giles' Street, Oxford, England, owned by St. John's College, Oxford and operated by Mitchells & Butlers as a Nicholson's pub.[2] The pub had been part of an endowment belonging to University College since the 17th century. It has associations with the Inklings writers' group which included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. In 2005, 25 other pubs had the same name.[3]

The Eagle and Child
The Eagle and Child.jpg
The Eagle and Child
The Eagle and Child is located in Oxford city centre
The Eagle and Child
Location within Central Oxford
General information
Coordinates51°45′26″N 1°15′37″W / 51.7572°N 1.2603°W / 51.7572; -1.2603Coordinates: 51°45′26″N 1°15′37″W / 51.7572°N 1.2603°W / 51.7572; -1.2603

HistoryEdit

 
The Eagle and Child from directly in front of the building, in St Giles Street.

A small, narrow building, the pub reputedly served as the lodgings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the English Civil War (1642–49), when Oxford was the Royalist capital. The landmark served as a pay house for the Royalist army, and pony auctions were held in the rear courtyard. These claims are inconsistent with the earliest date usually given for construction of the pub, 1650, and the fact that the pub lies outside the city walls may also give some cause for doubt.[citation needed]

The first record of the pub's name is from 1684,[4] and is variously said to derive from the legend of Ganymede being abducted by the eagle of Zeus,[5] or from the crest of the Earl of Derby, with a story of a noble-born baby found in an eagle's nest.[6] The child was called Oskatel and was found by Sir Thomas Lathom, who became father-in-law to Sir John Stanley.[7] The pub's long-standing nickname is the Bird and Baby.[1]

The pub had been part of an endowment belonging to University College since the 17th century. The college placed it on the market for £1.2 million in December 2003, saying that it needed to rebalance its property portfolio. It was bought by the nearby St John's College, which also owns the Lamb and Flag pub opposite.[4] The Eagle and Child is a Grade II listed building.[8]

Literary connectionsEdit

 
The former Rabbit Room contains mementos of The Inklings.

The Inklings was an Oxford writers' group which included C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Hugo Dyson. From late 1933, they met on Thursday evenings at Lewis's college rooms at Magdalen, where they would read and discuss various material, including their unfinished manuscripts.[9][10] These meetings were accompanied with more informal lunchtime gatherings at various Oxford pubs which coalesced into a regular meeting held on Monday or Tuesday lunchtimes at The Eagle and Child, in a private lounge at the back of the pub called the 'Rabbit Room'.[11][12][13]

The formal Thursday meetings ended in October 1949 when interest in the readings finally petered out, but the meetings at the Eagle and Child continued, and it was at one of those meetings in June 1950 that C.S. Lewis distributed the proofs for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.[14]

The membership of the Inklings changed over the years, Tolkien, for example, drifted away from the meetings in the late 1950s.[15] But Lewis, who had lived around Oxford since 1921, was a central figure until his death in 1963. The Eagle and Child was modernised in 1962, with the pub being extended to the rear. The Rabbit Room's former privacy was inevitably destroyed; the group reluctantly changed its allegiance to the Lamb & Flag on the other side of St Giles.[16][17] The meetings in the Lamb & Flag were soon abandoned after Lewis' death.[18]

More recently, the pub featured in Colin Dexter's novel The Secret of Annexe 3, in which Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis read the wooden plaque to the Inklings in the pub's back bar.[19]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b Edwards, A. (31 December 2005). "Pint to Pint: The Eagle and Child". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 18 May 2008.
  2. ^ "The Eagle and Child in Oxford". Nicholson's Pubs. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  3. ^ Cocker, Mark; Mabey, Richard (2005). Birds Britannica. Chatto & Windus. p. 474. ISBN 0-7011-6907-9.
  4. ^ a b "Eagle & Child Inn, 49 St Giles, Oxford". www.oxfordhistory.org.uk. Retrieved 15 July 2008.
  5. ^ Carpenter 1979, p. 122.
  6. ^ Rothwell 2006, p. 126.
  7. ^ "History of Liverpool Stanley & Molyneux families". Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  8. ^ Historic England. "The Eagle and Child Public House (Grade II) (1047147)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  9. ^ Carpenter 1979.
  10. ^ Duriez 2003, p. 80.
  11. ^ Duriez 2003, pp. 77–80.
  12. ^ King, D. W. (2020). "When did the Inklings meet? A chronological survey of their gatherings: 1933-1954". Journal of Inklings Studies. 10: 184–204. doi:10.3366/ink.2020.0079.
  13. ^ Carpenter (1977) p 149
  14. ^ Duriez 2003, pp. 128, 137.
  15. ^ Duriez 2003, p. 160.
  16. ^ Carpenter 1979, p. 250.
  17. ^ Brind 2005, p. 43.
  18. ^ Carpenter 1979, p. 252.
  19. ^ "Oxfordshire - Pubs and Inns with a literary connection". Once Upon a Pint. Retrieved 29 July 2018.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit