King's Arms, Oxford

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The King's Arms
King's Arms, Oxford.JPG
The King's Arms on the corner of Parks Road (left) and Holywell Street (right)
King's Arms, Oxford is located in Oxford city centre
King's Arms, Oxford
Location within central Oxford
General information
Address40 Holywell Street, Oxford, OX1 3SP, England
Coordinates51°45′18″N 1°15′16″W / 51.755°N 1.2544°W / 51.755; -1.2544Coordinates: 51°45′18″N 1°15′16″W / 51.755°N 1.2544°W / 51.755; -1.2544
Opened18 September 1607
OwnerWadham College, Oxford / Young's Brewery

The King's Arms (colloquially known as the KA)[1] is one of the main student pubs in Oxford, England.[2] It claims to be the oldest pub in Oxford.[3]


The King's Arms pub is in a prominent position on the corner of Parks Road and Holywell Street, opposite the New Bodleian Library building. Also nearby are Broad Street and the Clarendon Building, part of Oxford University. A local myth has it that the KA has the highest IQ per square foot of any pub or bar in the world.[3] The pub is owned by Wadham College, which is located just to the north.


The site was originally occupied by buildings erected by Augustinian friars in 1268.[4] After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, the land passed to the City of Oxford.

The lease book of Oxford Council in 1607 stated "Thomas Franklyn has licence to set up an inn with the sign of the King's Arms".[5] Franklyn's choice of the name refers to King James I (reigned 1603–1625), who was involved with Wadham College, immediately to the north. It opened on 18 September 1607.[4]

In the 17th century, the King's Arms was a popular location for plays.[4] In the early 18th century, the south side and rear were rebuilt. The west frontage was added in the late 18th century. The King's Arms was variously a coaching inn (by 1771) and a hotel during its history.

Graham Greene, in his interviews with biographer Norman Sherry, identified the King's Arms as the pub where he and Kim Philby, among other intelligence officers, shared drinks around 1944. Greene was known to have been a practical joker in the comfortable confines of the pub as per Philby's recollections. It was around this time Philby wanted to promote Greene, who rejected promotion and resigned.[6]

It was said[according to whom?] that some dons held tutorials in the back bar as late as the 1970s.[citation needed] Before Wadham College reclaimed upper stories of the building in the 1960s, the King's Arms had been an hotel, once popular with commercial travellers.

Until 1973, the pub's back bar, known as The Don's Bar, was not open to women, the last such bar in Oxford.[5] There was a fire in that year, started by an electrical fault in the Don's Bar, not as some would have it by radical feminists. The room now known as The Office was in fact the landlord's office until 1992, when it was converted into extra bar space.

The pub became a Young's pub in 1991.[5]


  1. ^ "King's Arms". The Oxford Guide. Retrieved 27 March 2013. External link in |work= (help)
  2. ^ "Kings Arms". Itchy Oxford. UK: Itchy. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 27 March 2013. External link in |publisher=, |work= (help)
  3. ^ a b "King's Arms". UK. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Hibbert, Christopher, ed. (1988). "King's Arms". The Encyclopaedia of Oxford. Macmillan. p. 210. ISBN 0-333-39917-X.
  5. ^ a b c "Kings Arms". UK: Young's Brewery. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  6. ^ The Life of Graham Greene Vol. 2, 1939-1955 p. 181

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