The Hobbit (pub)

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The Hobbit, on Bevois Valley Road, Southampton

The Hobbit is a pub in the Bevois Valley area of Southampton, England. Previously the Portswood Hotel, it was named after J. R. R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit in 1989. In 2012 the pub was involved in a legal dispute with Middle-earth Enterprises, a company owned by film producer Saul Zaentz, over its use of the name.

History and facilities[edit]

The Hobbit was originally known as the Portswood Hotel, and appears on 19th-century Ordnance Survey mapping.[1] It was renamed The Hobbit in 1989.[2] Its name is inspired by the race of the same name featured in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien; other public houses with the same name exist or have existed in Weston-super-Mare, Monyash (now renamed[3]) and Sowerby Bridge.[4] It won the Best Pub award at the Southern Daily Echo's "Best Bar None" event in 2007.[5] In December 2007 it was forced to close for two weeks as a result of an administrative error, during which time the pub was refurbished.[6]

Many drinks served at The Hobbit are named after characters from Tolkien's novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.[2][7] Although The Hobbit does not have a kitchen, a new Caribbean food franchise was introduced in 2009, operating from a shed in the pub's garden.[8]

Ownership and management[edit]

The pub is one of several in Southampton to be owned by Punch Taverns.[9] It was operated by landlord Steve Dockrell prior to his death in October 2008,[10] and was taken over by Stella Roberts in June 2009.[8] In the 2010s, the Hobbit's business began to suffer because of increasing costs, while the rise in tuition fees has left students with less disposable income.[11]

On 13 March 2012, it was reported that Middle-earth Enterprises, a division of the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) which oversees copyright issues surrounding Tolkien's works on Middle earth, had accused the pub of copyright infringement over the use of the Hobbit name.[7] The move was strongly criticised by actors Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen, both of whom were to appear in the Hobbit film series,[12] and by John Denham, Member of Parliament for Southampton Itchen.[13] A Facebook campaign to save The Hobbit was launched, and by 16 March 2012 had gained over 50,000 followers. On the same date SZC offered to resolve the dispute by allowing the pub to use the name for a licence fee.[12] Fry and McKellen later offered to contribute to the payment of the licence fee.[14]

Despite the apparent resolution, legal disputes surrounding the issue continued into August 2012, when an event was held at the pub to raise money to pay for its lawyers to continue negotiations.[15] In 2017, Roberts reported that the pub may have to close owing to increasing rates for commercial premises in Southampton. A crowdfunding appeal was set up to raise appropriate funds.[16]


  1. ^ Hampshire & Isle of Wight LXV (includes: Southampton.) (Map). Ordnance Survey. 1871.
  2. ^ a b Reynolds, Emma (13 March 2012). "The battle of Middle Earth (Enterprises): British pub called The Hobbit for 20 years is sued by Hollywood giant over use of name". Mail Online.
  3. ^ Paul, Biggs; Biggs, Sandra (1997). Discovery Walks in Derbyshire. Sigma Leisure. p. 63. ISBN 1850585547. Sometime later [the Bulls Head] was renamed the Hobbit Inn but thankfully today it has reverted to its original name
  4. ^ Simpson, Jacqueline (2011). Green Men & White Swans: The Folklore of British Pub Names. Random House. p. 133. ISBN 978-1847945150.
  5. ^ "They're the best bar none". Southern Daily Echo. 1 May 2007.
  6. ^ "Lease error forces popular bar to shut temporarily". Southern Daily Echo. 17 December 2007.
  7. ^ a b "Hobbit pub in Southampton threatened with legal action". BBC News. 13 March 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Pub Food: Kitchen not essential". Morning Advertiser. 9 December 2010.
  9. ^ "Pleased as Punch with rising profits". Southern Daily Echo. 9 November 2007.
  10. ^ Stephenson, Corey (9 October 2008). "Pub landlord falls victim to meningitis". Southern Daily Echo.
  11. ^ "The Hobbit Launches Crowdfunding Campaign To Prevent Closure". Wessex Scene. 13 August 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  12. ^ a b Child, Ben (16 March 2012). "Producer who oversees Hobbit brand offers 'amicable resolution' over pub name". The Guardian.
  13. ^ "Stephen Fry backs Hobbit pub in Southampton over legal action". BBC News. 14 March 2012.
  14. ^ Robinson, Julian (19 March 2012). "Sir Ian McKellen and Stephen Fry to pay for The Hobbit pub in Southampton's licence fee". Southern Daily Echo.
  15. ^ "Hobbit pub copyright row: Legal fees fundraising event". BBC News. 11 August 2012.
  16. ^ "Uncertain future for Southampton's Hobbit pub". BBC News. 14 August 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2017.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°55′08″N 1°23′43″W / 50.918783°N 1.395139°W / 50.918783; -1.395139