The Eagle and Child

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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

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. 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.[2]


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.

The first record of the pub's name is from 1684,[3] and is said to derive from the crest of the Earl of Derby. The image is said to refer to a story of a noble-born baby having been found in an eagle's nest.[4]

An alternative explanation for the name of the pub is from the star constellation 'Aquila and Antinous'. [5][6] The constellation was named by the Roman emperor Hadrian after his boy lover Antinous drowned the Nile in 130. The constellation's first known depiction was in 1536 on a celestial globe by the German mathematician and cartographer Caspar Vopel (1511–61); it was shown again in 1551 on a globe by Gerardus Mercator. Tycho Brahe listed it as a separate constellation in his star catalogue of 1602 and it remained widely accepted into the 19th century, when it was eventually remerged with Aquila.

The pub's long-standing nickname is the Bird and Baby, although other variants such as the "Fowl and Foetus" have been used.[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.[3]

Literary connections[edit]

The 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 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.[7] 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 known as the 'Rabbit Room'.[8]

The formal 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.[9]

The membership of the Inklings changed over the years, Tolkien, for example, drifted away from the meetings in the late 1950s.[10] 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 leading to the group's reluctant change of allegiance to the Lamb & Flag at the other side of St Giles.[11]

More recently, the pub was regularly frequented by Colin Dexter,[12] who created Inspector Morse.


  1. ^ a b Edwards, A. (31 December 2005), "Pint to Pint: The Eagle and Child", The Daily Telegraph
  2. ^ Cocker, Mark; Mabey, Richard (2005). Birds Britannica. Chatto & Windus. p. 474. ISBN 0-7011-6907-9.
  3. ^ a b Eagle & Child Inn, 49 St Giles, Oxford,, retrieved 15 July 2008
  4. ^ Stanley crest history, Rootsweb, retrieved 14 May 2006
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Duriez (2003) p80
  8. ^ Duriez (2003) pp 77–80
  9. ^ Duriez (2003) p128; ibid p137
  10. ^ Duriez (2003) p160
  11. ^ Carpenter (1978) p250; Brind (2006) p43
  12. ^ "Oxfordshire - Pubs and Inns with a literary connection". Once Upon a Pint. Retrieved 29 July 2018.


External links[edit]