A historic pub in central Oxford that has served students, scholars and writers for over 450 years is about to close, a cultural victim of the COVID pandemic.
The lamb and flag, once used by the likes of Lord of the Rings, author J.R.R. Tolkien and his friend C. S. Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, have suffered a catastrophic loss of revenue since the pandemic began.
The pub was first opened in 1566 and moved to its current location in St. Giles, a wide thoroughfare in the city center, in 1613. It belongs to St. John’s College, one of 45 colleges and private halls at the University of Oxford.
“The lamb and flag, like many other companies in the hospitality industry, have been badly hit by the pandemic,” St. John’s associate fellow Steve Elston said in a statement that the pub would close on January 31.
“The trading figures for the past 12 months have meant that the pub is currently financially unsustainable.”
England was largely under lockdown in March, April, May and June of last year, then again in November, and has been in its third national lockdown since January 5th. University life was severely disrupted outside of the official closings.
Dave Richardson, of the Campaign for Real Ale’s Oxford office, said the Lamb and the Flag are one of the most traditional pubs in town and it would be a tragedy if they went away.
“There is no television, there is no jukebox, there is no music. It’s a place where people talk to each other, enjoy the traditional, historical setting. Generations of people have done this, students, city dwellers, people from afar, ” he said.
The lamb and flag, named after symbols traditionally associated with John the Baptist, are believed to have housed the great writer Thomas Hardy, who played part of his dark novel “Jude the Obscure” in a fictional Oxford called Christminster.
Since 1997, St. John’s College has used the profits generated by the pub to fund scholarships for graduate students. Those receiving the scholarships would not be affected by the pub’s closure and would fund future scholarships directly.
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