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The Eagle and Child to be restored and reopened

The Eagle and Child, a pub in St Giles renowned for its literary links,  has been visited by new owners to discuss details of its upcoming refurbishment and newfound additional purpose as a social hub for the Ellison Institute of Technology (EIT). 

The celebrated pub unfortunately had to close its doors in 2020 following lockdown after 336 years of business. The previous owner, St John’s College, had failed to find adequate buyers until last year when the American-founded tech institute EIT acquired the property. EIT is set to complete its laboratory campus in Oxford Science Park in 2026 and intends to use the space as a city-centre base. Architects Norman Foster and Partners who are designing the main campus are also managing the refurbishment of the Grade II-listed building. 

Lisa Flashner, Chief Operating Officer of EIT, and her architect associates visited Oxford last month. They went to the recently refurbished Lamb and Flag pub opposite Eagle and Child to speak with Oxford Drinker. While the bottom floor of the pub is still intended to be open to the public, Ms Flashner stated: “On the upper floors, we will create spaces for our scholars to meet and get to know each other, including private dining.” The pub was most famously frequented and admired by literary icons J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis as members of The Inklings, a group of writers and academics that would congregate in the “Rabbit Room” at the back of the pub.

There will be changes to the pub’s layout as the current dining area will be demolished and the back garden expanded as a way to create more space across the ground floor. There will also be a passageway created to the garden through the side as another entrance to the pub, aiding the separation between the EIT hub and public house aspects of the property. 

However, there are structural issues that arise from the pub’s four-year abandonment. Ms Flashner claims the pub is currently “in a serious state of disrepair.” Tom Myers, an architect, also commented: “It will be slow going reopening the pub. Our plan is to reopen it as soon as possible, but we need patience.” Aside from architectural concerns, Ms Flashner was receptive to community praise in reopening the pub. She stated: “If people celebrate us half as much when we open the campus as when we reopen the pub, we’ll be doing well.” 

Previous regulars of the pub across Oxford look on in anticipation such as Sir Malcolm Evans, Principal of nearby Regent’s Park College. Speaking with Cherwell, he recounted the “pleasant atmosphere” of the pub – nicknamed the “Bird and Baby” – he experienced as a student. Despite going through a significant transition, there is hope in sight for current and future generations of students to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors in enjoying this legendary landmark of Oxford culture. 

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