Friday, October 7, 2022

The Lamb and Flag

A pub in Oxford:
I’ve just bought Tolkien’s pub in Oxford. Well, to be more precise, I and more than 300 fellow drinkers have bought the Lamb and Flag, the 400-year-old Oxford pub where the Inklings group of writers – including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis – drank.

Like so many pubs across the country, the Lamb and Flag closed, in January last year, thanks to the pandemic trading slump. Across the road, the Eagle and Child pub also closed, in 2020, because of Covid. Tolkien and Lewis drank there, too – they called it ‘the Bird and Baby’. It remains shut.

What rare survival stories these two pubs are – or were. The Eagle and Child, owned by St John’s College, opened in 1650. The Lamb and Flag, also owned by St John’s, opened in 1613....

We reopen our pub at 6 p.m. on Thursday 6 October 2022, which is possibly, or exactly, 111 years to the day that J.R.R. Tolkien arrived in Oxford.

As Tolkienologists will know, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, opens with Bilbo Baggins’s 111th birthday – or his eleventy-first birthday, as Bilbo put it. ....

The Lamb and Flag will have a renovated snug, celebrating the original Inklings in the spot where they liked to drink. The Georgian front room has been returned to its original dimensions, with an ugly 30-year-old bar removed. Events will be held in this room for the public, including talks by scientists, politicians and Oxford dons, and book launches.

It’s easy to mythologise pubs and never go near one. I certainly don’t drink in pubs nearly as much as I did at university, because it’s so much more expensive now. And some pubs aren’t really very nice, with unbearably loud music and other unwelcome additions. Tolkien and Lewis moved their pint glasses from the Eagle and Child to the Lamb and Flag when the landlady installed a dartboard – you can imagine their reaction to today’s modernising horrors.

But a good pub – particularly a really old one with these unique literary connections – is irreplaceable. Thank God the Lamb and Flag hasn’t been replaced. (more)
Harry Mount, "Fellowship of the Lamb: how we’re saving Tolkien’s pub," The Spectator, Oct. 8, 2022.

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