For some, the news in January that the historic Lamb & Flag pub in Oxford would not be reopening would have devastated their hopes of completing the city’s notorious pub crawl. This fate has changed upon support from the community interest company, The Inklings Group.
The Inklings Group, an Oxford-based literary group is recognised for their members J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis - both former patrons of the Lamb & Flag - have rescued the pub from closure. The group was formed in Oxford in the 1930s and 1940s, and members frequented the Lamb & Flag and the nearby The Eagle and Child pub.
The group has signed a long-term lease with the pub, allowing the literary lover’s pub to keep its doors open. The Lamb & Flag was facing permanent closure earlier this year because of the pandemic but will now be refurbished and reopened ‘in time for this year’s festive season.’
Speaking to St John’s College, Kate O’Brien, Chairman of the Inklings Group, said: “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. Our hope and belief is that the pub will remain as a community asset at the centre 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.”
O’Brien said that this space is a “community project” and will be a pub inclusive of Town and Gown alike.
This comes after news of the pub closing earlier this year incited political involvement from the Oxford Liberal Democrats, who highlighted that the pub is an important community asset.
In January this year, upon news that the pub was to close, it was hoped that support would come to prevent the closure of this 17th-century pub.
The pub was forced to close after being unable to breakeven in the summer of 2020, following the first lockdown.
St John’s deputy bursar said at the time that the pub had been “hard hit by the pandemic” and continued that the college was unable to support the Lamb & Flag. “As a charity, [St John’s] is not allowed to financially support a loss-making business that is not part of its core charitable objectives”, he said.
Zoe Hancock, Principal Bursar of St John’s College, said: “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.”
The Lamb & Flag will remain recognisable in its traditional character but will also undergo a light refurbishment.
The Lamb & Flag has been serving Oxford students and academics alike since 1566 and will now, with the help of the Inkling group, be able to continue their trade this festive season.