Plans have been submitted to speed up the reopening of an historic pub used by writers including CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien.

Owner St John’s College has applied for listed building consent to make alterations to the vacant Eagle and Child pub in St Giles, Oxford so that it can be brought back into use.

An application to refurbish and extend the pub and create a hotel with café and reception area next door and the rooms above both buildings, was approved in 2019 but an operator for both pub and hotel pulled out in March 2020 as soon as lockdown was announced. It has been closed since.

St John’s has found subsequent prospective operators wanted changes to the approved layout which the college felt were harmful to the building. Now the college plans to go ahead with the changes to the pub without the proposed hotel to make it easier to let.

St John’s College is proposing a light refurbishment of the pub’s front rooms, partial replacement of a rear extension roof, reconfiguring of an extension and adding a new one.

There will also be rebuilding of a section of historic wall and access alterations to the yard.

The Eagle and Child was used by a group of authors and poets called the Inklings for around 20 years. As well as CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, Colin Dexter, author of the Morse series of books and TV dramas, was a member.

For more than 20 years from the 1930s onwards the group would meet in a room in the pub, now known as the Rabbit Room.

The Inklings later used the Lamb & Flag pub opposite which also closed in lockdown but has since been reopened by a community interest company of the same name.

The team on the planning application includes Savills on architecture, Purcell on heritage and Sidleys Chartered as historic building surveyor.


Image: Adam.thomp07, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

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