The Eagle and Child, also known as The Bird and Baby is a pub in St Giles’ Street in Oxford, England. Today it is owned by St. John’s College in Oxford and it has been a pub since the 17th century.
Famous for its associations with the Inkings writer’s group, the pub today is one of the most visited places in Oxford. The two most famous members were J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis who are considered to be the best authors of high-fantasy works such as The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.
The wooden interior of the pub looks like it was designed from their books. The room, where they met, is called the ‘Rabbit Room’ which is at the back of the pub.
The room contains mementos of the Inkings. From late 1933, they met on Thursday evenings at Lewis’s college room at Magdalen, where they would read and discuss various materials, including their unfinished manuscripts. These meetings were accompanied with more informal lunchtime gatherings at the Eagle and Child held on Mondays or Tuesday.
The pub is a magical place decorated with drawings that show the journey from the home of Bilbo Baggins to distant snowy mountains filled with goblins and orcs. On one of the doors, there is a small map of Narnia that seems to lead to a creepy little alley.
The formal meetings ended in October 1949 but occasional meetings continued at The Eagle and Child, 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 first record of the pub’s name is from 1684 when Richard Platt was granted a license to hang out a sign. The sign was derived 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.
The pub’s long-standing nickname is the Bird and Baby, although other variants such as the “Fowl and Foetus” have been used.
During the English Civil War when Oxford was the Royalist capital, the pub served as the lodgings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The landmark served as a pay house for the Royalist army, and pony auctions were held in the near countryard.
The pub had been part of an endowment belonging to University College since the 17th century. It was placed on the market in December 2003 for £1. 2 million saying that it needed to re-balance its property portfolio and it was bought by the nearby St John’s College.