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The Eagle and Child

The Eagle and Child

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The Eagle and Child is a pub
Public house
A public house, informally known as a pub, is a drinking establishment fundamental to the culture of Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. There are approximately 53,500 public houses in the United Kingdom. This number has been declining every year, so that nearly half of the smaller...

 in St Giles', Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 which is owned by St. John's College, Oxford. The pub had been part of an endowment belonging to University College
University College, Oxford
.University College , is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2009 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £110m...

 since the 17th century. It has associations with the Inklings
Inklings
The Inklings was an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford, England, for nearly two decades between the early 1930s and late 1949. The Inklings were literary enthusiasts who praised the value of narrative in fiction, and encouraged the writing of fantasy...

 writers' group which included J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

 and C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

.

History


A small, narrow building, the pub reputedly served as the lodgings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the title held by the British Cabinet minister who is responsible for all economic and financial matters. Often simply called the Chancellor, the office-holder controls HM Treasury and plays a role akin to the posts of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the...

 during the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 (1642–49), when Oxford
Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 was the Royalist
Cavalier
Cavalier was the name used by Parliamentarians for a Royalist supporter of King Charles I and son Charles II during the English Civil War, the Interregnum, and the Restoration...

 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, and is said to derive from the crest of the Earl of Derby
Earl of Derby
Earl of Derby is a title in the Peerage of England. The title was first adopted by Robert de Ferrers, 1st Earl of Derby under a creation of 1139. It continued with the Ferrers family until the 6th Earl forfeited his property toward the end of the reign of Henry III and died in 1279...

. The image is said to refer to a story of a noble-born baby having been found in an eagle's nest.

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

The pub had been part of an endowment belonging to University College
University College, Oxford
.University College , is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2009 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £110m...

 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.

Literary Connections



The Inklings was an Oxford writers' group which included C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson
Hugo Dyson
Henry Victor Dyson Dyson , generally known as Hugo Dyson and who signed his writings H. V. D. Dyson, was an English academic and a member of the Inklings literary group. He was a committed Christian, and together with J.R.R. Tolkien, he helped persuade C.S...

. From late 1933, they met on Thursday evenings at Lewis's college rooms at Magdalen
Magdalen College, Oxford
Magdalen College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. As of 2006 the college had an estimated financial endowment of £153 million. Magdalen is currently top of the Norrington Table after over half of its 2010 finalists received first-class degrees, a record...

, where they would read and discuss various material, including their unfinished manuscripts. These meetings were accompanied with more informal lunchtime gatherings at various Oxford pubs which coalesced into a regular meeting held on Mondays or Tuesday lunchtimes at the Eagle and Child, in a private lounge at the back of the pub known as the 'Rabbit Room'.

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
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis. Published in 1950 and set circa 1940, it is the first-published book of The Chronicles of Narnia and is the best known book of the series. Although it was written and published first, it is second in the series'...

.

The membership of the Inklings changed over the years, Tolkien, for example, drifting away from the meetings in the late 1950s, 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.

More recently, the pub was regularly frequented by Colin Dexter
Colin Dexter
Norman Colin Dexter, OBE, is an English crime writer, known for his Inspector Morse novels which were written between 1975 and 1999 and adapted as a television series from 1987 to 2000.-Early life and career:...

, who created Inspector Morse
Inspector Morse
Inspector Morse is a fictional character in the eponymous series of detective novels by British author Colin Dexter, as well as the 33-episode 1987–2000 television adaptation of the same name, in which the character was portrayed by John Thaw. Morse is a senior CID officer with the Thames Valley...

, and is still frequented by Diarmaid MacCulloch
Diarmaid MacCulloch
Diarmaid Ninian John MacCulloch FBA, FSA, FR Hist S is Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford...

.

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