LEICESTER, United Kingdom – An Oxford pub used by a writing group that included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis has been saved from permanent closure.
The Lamb & Flag is owned by St. John’s College – part of Oxford University – and a meeting place of the Inklings, a literary group including many noted mid-20th century fantasy writers, many of whom were devout Christians.
Tolkien is most famous for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and Lewis’s most famous work is the Chronicles of Narnia, although his apologetic works such as Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters are still popular. Other members of the group included Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson. The group would often sit in the pub discussing their work and reading from projects in process.
These meetings were credited with improving the works of the authors, although there were often strong disagreements: Tolkien strongly disliked Narnia, and Dyson is famous for at one meeting blurting out, “Oh God, no more Elves!”
Although the Inklings are more associated with The Eagle and Child, located across the street, the Lamb & Flag was used in the group’s latter years.
Although not a member of the Inklings, Catholic author Graham Greene was also a patron of the pub.
The Lamb and Flag refer to Jesus Christ as seen in the Book of Revelation, and the pub dates back to the 16th century. St. John’s College announced it was closing the pub permanently in January, citing the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it was announced this week the Inklings Group – named in honor of the pub’s former patrons – has signed a long-term lease with the college to relaunch the pub.
“Several hundred people, brought together by a love of Oxford and the Lamb & Flag pub, have established the Inklings Group to secure the future of this well-loved pub. We are determined to ensure that the next 408 years of this beloved pub will be as fun, interesting and impactful as the last 408 years,” said Kate O’Brien, the chairperson of the Inklings Group.
“Our hope and belief is that the pub will remain as a community asset at the center of the magical Oxford scene. The funds to ensure a sustainable future for the pub have already been committed. This community project is not exclusive in any way, and all are welcome to become an Inkling,” she said in a statement.
The Inklings Group said the pub will be aimed at local philanthropy and positive impact rather than making a profit.
“We are delighted to be working with The Inklings Group to reopen the Lamb & Flag pub. The Lamb & Flag is much loved by our students, staff, Fellows and the wider community, and we believe the vision of The Inkling Group will bring great benefit to all,” said Zoe Hancock, the Principal Bursar of St. John’s College.
The pub is expected to reopen before Christmas.
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