St Giles, Oxford is home to The Eagle & Child, an old pub that was the preferred watering hole of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the group collectively known as the Inklings. A plaque commemorating their frequent presence is posted on the wall and everything. But alas, it’s time for the pub to go further up and further in, as local officials have approved plans to turn the pub into a hotel.
The BBC reports that the current landlord’s plans include “demolishing part of the ground floor and first floor rear extensions, and converting the cafe next door into a hotel reception and rooms …The upper floors will also be repurposed for accommodation.” A part of the pub will remain on the ground floor.
Several officials protested the changes, citing “concerns about the impact on the historic buildings and streetscape in St Giles, and the potential impact on trees in the adjoining street at Wellington Place,” but apparently those concerns were overruled in favor of updating the old bar.
And we do mean old. The Eagle & Child — which the Inklings affectionately referred to as “The Bird and Baby” had been a public house since 1650.
The Inklings was a group of literature-minded friends including Lewis, Tolkien, Charlies Williams and Hugo Dyson. They started meeting at The Eagle & Child in the 1930s, discussing each other’s work and getting feedback on unfinished manuscripts. In 1950, Lewis passed around a draft for a children’s fantasy book he’d been toying with called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and the rest is history. While the group changed members over time, Lewis was a fixture of both the Inklings and the pub they called home until his death in 1963.