JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis: Eagle and Child pub owner 'looking at options'

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Image source, Bill Nicholls
Image caption,
The Eagle and Child in St Giles' has a plaque inside commemorating the writers' get-togethers

The owners of a closed-down pub, which was made famous as a meeting place for authors CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, say they are actively working on reopening it.

The Eagle and Child in St Giles', Oxford, dates to 1650 and has a plaque inside commemorating the writers' get-togethers.

Known as The Inklings, they would regularly meet up with other academics at the Grade II listed pub.

The pub is owned by St John's College.

Principal bursar Zoe Hancock told the BBC she was on her way to a meeting about the future of the pub, which shut in 2020 during the Covid pandemic.

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

In 2019, plans were approved to turn it into a hotel, but since then several operators have come and gone due to pandemic struggles.

Image source, Natasha Ceridwen de Chroustchoff
Image caption,
The authors dubbed the pub "The Bird and Baby"

Ms Hancock said this had left the college "back at square one" and "taking stock".

She 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."

Shaun Gunner, chair of the Tolkien Society, said he was "encouraged" that the college was on the case, but that the pub needed to "reopen as soon as possible".

"There's so many people who love that pub," he said.

"Even in the new Rings of Power TV series there's a pub in one of the towns… and on the side of the pub was an eagle and a child.

"All Tolkien fans know the significance of this building."

Image source, Getty Images / PA Media
Image caption,
CS Lewis (left) and JRR Tolkien would discuss their work in progress at the pub

Dave Richardson, from the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: "The pub is in bad condition.

"The cellar needs a total revamp, there's quite a lot of rot, there's a bit of a rodent infestation… we are a bit concerned about this and we would like something to happen sooner rather than later."

Another of the authors' regular haunts, The Lamb & Flag, is also owned by the college.

It is set to reopen after more than two years after being taken over by a community group.

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