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The Eagle and Child

Coordinates: 51°45′26″N 1°15′37″W / 51.7572°N 1.2603°W / 51.7572; -1.2603
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The Eagle and Child
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; -1.2603

The Eagle and Child, nicknamed "the Bird and Baby",[1] is a pub in St Giles', Oxford, England, owned by the Ellison Institute of Technology [2] and previously operated by Mitchells & Butlers as a Nicholson's pub.[3] 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 in the United Kingdom had the same name.[4]


The pub's exterior, seen from St Giles'

The first record of the pub's name is from 1684,[5] and is variously said to derive from the legend of Ganymede being abducted by the eagle of Zeus,[6] or from the crest of the Earl of Derby, with a story of a noble-born baby found in an eagle's nest.[7] The child was called Oskatel and was found by Sir Thomas Lathom, who became father-in-law to Sir John Stanley.[8] 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.[5] The Eagle and Child is a Grade II listed building.[9]

The pub has remained closed since March 2020 in the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic.[10] Planning permission has been granted to sympathetically refurbish it, with the upper floors being converted to hotel accommodation, along with the upper floors of two adjacent properties, the ground floor of the adjacent property serving as the hotel reception and the addition of a restaurant to the rear of the property. The planned changes will not affect the appearance of front of the pub, including the Rabbit Room.[11][12] The business is currently owned by the Ellison Institute of Technology, who plan to reopen it as a pub,[13] with the upper floors converted to meeting rooms.[14]

Literary connections

The former Rabbit Room contains mementos of The Inklings.

The Inklings were 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.[15][16] These meetings were accompanied with more informal lunchtime gatherings at various Oxford pubs, and 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".[17][18][19]

The formal Thursday meetings ended in October 1949 when interest in the readings 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.[20]

The membership of the Inklings changed over the years. Tolkien, for example, drifted away from the meetings in the late 1950s,[21] whereas Lewis, who had lived around Oxford since 1921, was a central figure until his death in 1963. When 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'.[22][23] The meetings in the Lamb & Flag were soon abandoned after Lewis's death.[24]

The plaque to the Inklings in the Eagle and Child in 1979. Reading it is a member of The Tolkien Society

The Eagle and Child 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.[25] It was also used as a location in the television series Inspector Morse in the 1991 episode "Second Time Around", in which it was dressed up as "Shears Wine Bar".[26]

The pub is the meeting place of the main characters and a 1906 suffragette planning session in Pip Williams' best-selling 2020 debut novel The Dictionary of Lost Words.

The pub is mentioned in Episode 7 of Season 1 of the Netflix series 3 Body Problem.


  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. ^ "Tolkien and Lewis pub bought by tech institute". 25 October 2023.
  3. ^ "The Eagle and Child in Oxford". Nicholson's Pubs. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  4. ^ Cocker, Mark; Mabey, Richard (2005). Birds Britannica. Chatto & Windus. p. 474. ISBN 0-7011-6907-9.
  5. ^ a b "Eagle & Child Inn, 49 St Giles, Oxford". www.oxfordhistory.org.uk. Retrieved 15 July 2008.
  6. ^ Carpenter 1979, p. 122.
  7. ^ Rothwell 2006, p. 126.
  8. ^ "History of Liverpool Stanley & Molyneux families". Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  9. ^ Historic England. "The Eagle and Child Public House (Grade II) (1047147)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  10. ^ Ffrench, Andrew (26 November 2021), "Famous Oxford pub the Eagle and Child will remain closed for two years", Oxford Mail, retrieved 17 June 2022
  11. ^ West Area Planning Committee 19/01456/FUL The Eagle And Child St Giles' Oxford OX1 3LU, 14 November 2019, retrieved 17 June 2022
  12. ^ "West Area Planning Committee Presentation 19/01456/FUL & 19/01457/LBC The Eagle And Child 49-51 St Giles' Oxford" (PDF), Oxford City Council, retrieved 17 June 2022
  13. ^ "Tolkien and Lewis pub bought by tech institute". 25 October 2023.
  14. ^ Richardson, Dave (Spring 2024). "New owners "will restore" Eagle and Child". The Oxford Drinker (122): 4.
  15. ^ Carpenter 1979.
  16. ^ Duriez 2003, p. 80.
  17. ^ Duriez 2003, pp. 77–80.
  18. ^ King, D. W. (2020). "When did the Inklings meet? A chronological survey of their gatherings: 1933-1954". Journal of Inklings Studies. 10 (2): 184–204. doi:10.3366/ink.2020.0079. S2CID 226364975.
  19. ^ Carpenter (1977) p 149
  20. ^ Duriez 2003, pp. 128, 137.
  21. ^ Duriez 2003, p. 160.
  22. ^ Carpenter 1979, p. 250.
  23. ^ Brind 2005, p. 43.
  24. ^ Carpenter 1979, p. 252.
  25. ^ "Oxfordshire - Pubs and Inns with a literary connection". Once Upon a Pint. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  26. ^ Sullivan, Chris (14 June 2015), "The Pubs and their Locations of Inspector Morse, Part Two", Morse Lewis And Endeavour, retrieved 18 June 2022