Lamb & Flag to re-open in February

We look inside as work continues on cellar revamp

Work continues to totally modernise the antiquated cellar at the Lamb & Flag, which is the main reason why Oxford CAMRA’s many times City Pub of the Year and Good Beer Guide regular will not re-open before Christmas as originally hoped when it was announced who would be taking over. Owner St John’s College has leased it to the Inklings Group, a community-owned organisation named after the famous writers’ group led by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis who used to meet here. There is still time to become an Inkling and contact details are below.

Courtesy of new manager Steve Jones, who has moved across from the Plough at 38, the Oxford Drinker was invited to take a look at the cellar as works, said to cost around £30,000, continue. A revamp of the kitchen is also taking place, but as it is not possible to expand the kitchen in this Grade II listed building, the Lamb & Flag will continue to be a drinks-led (“wet-led” in industry parlance) pub with only a modest food offering. The best news for CAMRA members is that true to the original vision of the Inklings Group, it will offer up to six mainly local real ales on hand pumps, plus one real cider. The biggest change that customers will see when the pub re-opens in the second half of February will be that the front bar is being removed to create more space for tables, but as this was only added in the late 20th century the essential character of the pub, with its ancient nooks and crannies, will remain. The oldest part is in fact at the rear and is believed to date from around 1695, although an inn with the same name was established on this site earlier in the 17th century.

Manager Steve Jones (third left) updates Dave Richardson, Steve Lawrence and Tony Goulding from Oxford CAMRA. Photo: Phil Gammon

Writing to supporters recently, the chair of the Inklings Group, Kate O’Brien, commented: “First let us remember why we have all come together as Inklings. The Lamb & Flag, operating on St Giles since 1613, was closed on January 31 this year. The Inklings Group was formed to ensure a sustainable future for this beloved Oxford institution and bring together a community of members. The Inklings Group has now been approved as a Community Interest Company and we have a bank account. Our intention is to raise £500k through your subscriptions. It is worth stating again that this is a community project, and should not been seen as an investment in a conventional sense.

“In terms of the pub itself, we felt it needed a little love and attention. The basement in particular needs some and we are currently undertaking an extensive refurbishment and creating a beer (and wine!) cellar you can all be proud of. This will ensure that the range of local ales sold at the Lamb & Flag will be in absolutely prime condition. The kitchen and other areas of the pub also require a little overhaul. This means that we will re-open to the public in February (January being a rather dry month).

“Getting the Lamb & Flag into a community venture has required a huge amount of work from so many people, and taken much of 2021. However, we hope that we have all secured something special for generations to come. A big thank you to everyone involved.”

Meanwhile, the pub even more closely associated with the original Inklings, the Eagle and Child on the opposite side of St Giles, remains closed and will probably remain so for some time. It is also owned by St John’s, which showed prospective tenants around recently. It has plans to create up to eight boutique hotel rooms on the upper floors, but a great deal of work is needed on the whole property.

If you’re interested in investing in the Inklings Group, contact

Work continues apace to create a cellar to store local real ales in tip-top condition. Photo: Phil Gammon