So, last year when I was at the Archives I got to look through a box of Taum's material that had recently come there by a circuitous route. And among the items of interest* was a 1988 piece from the OXFORD MAGAZINE by Inkling** John Wain called "Push Bar to Open". It's essentially a paean for the Eagle & Child (Wain prefers not to use the nickname 'Bird & Baby', thinking it rather silly). He describes the physical layout of the place (something not I think evident from the much-expanded building it is today) and how the family that ran the place (Mr. & Mrs. & Miss Blagrove) lived upstairs for the most part, though they did have a parlour downstairs that they sometimes allowed customers from the bar to use. Since this is the most detailed description I've come across of the place as it was in the Inklings' day, I thought I'd quote it here:
. . . a few of us, who naturally thought of ourselves as the cognoscenti, preferred the simplicity and quiet of the Eagle and Child. It was a beer house, not licensed for wine or spirits,*** with scrubbed wooden tables and linoleum on the floor, and two rooms, both small. On entering from the street, you were faced with the end of the bar, because you were sideways on to its main length, though 'length' is hardly the word in such a doll's house of a place. This oblong of bar was slightly to your right as you stood inside the door; slightly to your left a door confronted you, habitually closed but occasionally opening to reveal a flight of stairs which led to the family's quarters. Geometrically straight ahead, then as now, was the space left between the wooden partition wall of the staircase and the bar, which ran along this narrow space for some six or eight feet before emerging, less obstructed, into the second room. This had two doors. One, on the left, led into an alley-way at the side of the house from which the street could be gained; the other into a long, open backyard of the type usual in working-class houses, flanked on one side by a brick wall and on the other by a wash-house and, no doubt, in the original design of the place, all the plumbing of whatever description.
The family, Mr and Mrs Bladrove and their daughter, lived their domestic life mainly upstairs, but they must also have lived some of it in the area of the backyard, and in addition they had a parlour, which faced you when you entered the second bar-room. This room was not part of the licensed premises, but during the years immediately following the war, when the clientele increased in number, the Blagroves would occasionally, out of good nature, allow select customers to take their drinks in and sit there, if chairs were scarce or if they wanted to have an interrupted conversation.
. . . continued in next post
*which included, among other things, a photocopy of my second of two letters from Christopher Wiseman, which I must have given to Taum and long since forgotten that I had done so.
**and Angry Young Man, though it made him mad to be called that.
***I take this to mean you cd order beer or hard cider but not whiskey or wine. Wain is explicit that Lewis always ordered cider.
A Week In Books
3 days ago