Turf Tavern

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Turf Tavern
Turf Tavern in Oxford, England.jpg
Turf Tavern located in Oxford, England.
Turf Tavern is located in Oxford city centre
Turf Tavern
Location within Central Oxford
General information
Coordinates51°45′17″N 1°15′11″W / 51.7547°N 1.253°W / 51.7547; -1.253Coordinates: 51°45′17″N 1°15′11″W / 51.7547°N 1.253°W / 51.7547; -1.253
Turf Tavern website

The Turf Tavern (or just "the Turf") is a popular but well-hidden historic pub in central Oxford, England. Its foundations and use as a malt house and drinking tavern date back to 1381. The low-beamed front bar area was put in place sometime in the 17th century.[1] It was originally called the Spotted Cow but the name was changed in 1842, likely as part of an effort to extinguish its reputation as a venue for illegal gambling activities.

The pub is frequented primarily by university students (of both Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University). It is located at the end of a narrow winding alley, St Helens Passage (originally Hell's passage), between Holywell Street and New College Lane, near the Bridge of Sighs.[2] Running along one side of the pub is one of the remaining sections of the old city wall. Due to the illegal activities of many of its original patrons, the Turf sprang up in an area just outside the city wall in order to escape the jurisdiction of the governing bodies of the local colleges.[3]

The Turf Tavern is also where former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke set a Guinness World Record for consuming a yard glass of ale in 11 seconds in 1963. Local legend also has it that former U.S. president Bill Clinton, while attending Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, infamously "did not inhale" during an evening of carousing at the pub. Additional celebrities and public figures who have dined or drunk at the tavern include Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Tony Blair, CS Lewis, Stephen Hawking and Margaret Thatcher.[4] It also served as a hangout for the cast and crew of the Harry Potter movies while the nearby colleges were used as locations throughout the filming of the series.

It was also featured in the show Inspector Morse.[2]

The pub inspired The Lamb and Flag, a fictional drinking establishment featured in Jude the Obscure, author Thomas Hardy's final novel.[citation needed][1] It is also reportedly haunted by "Old Rosie," the ghost of a young woman who allegedly drowned herself in a nearby moat after her lover failed to return from the English Civil War. The Turf is still a frequent gathering place for the Rhodes community in Oxford as the site of Turf Tuesday every week during term.


  1. ^ a b "Turf Tavern pub in Oxford". Greene King Local Pubs. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  2. ^ a b "Find a Hidden Oxford Pub Down a Secret Alley". TripSavvy. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  3. ^ "Oxford's Turf Tavern to undergo a facelift". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  4. ^ Middleton, Christopher (2009-04-17). "Oxfordshire Pub Guide: The Turf Tavern, Oxford". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-09-02.

External links[edit]

Media related to Turf Tavern, Oxford at Wikimedia Commons