The Eagle

Cambridge, England

The Eagle: the birthplace of the DNA double helix.

Discover the Eagle in Cambridge

Since its establishment in 1667, The Eagle has become a cherished pub in the heart of Cambridge. Situated in a historic corner of Cambridge, managed by Greene King Brewery, it is one of Cambridge's oldest inns. Originally known as the "Eagle and Child," the pub has heard many interesting tales uttered inside its walls, and even witnessed moments of scientific discovery and wartime camaraderie.

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- Dunk 🐝

The Eagle throughout History

Celebrating “The Secret of Life”

Dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, The Eagle started out as a coaching inn, catering to weary travellers journeying to and from London. Then, with the advent of the railway in 1850, The Eagle transformed into the beloved tavern it is known as today.

With the decline of coach travel, the pub found itself a new clientele: students, faculty, and researchers from the esteemed colleges of Cambridge University. Among them were scientists from the nearby Cavendish Laboratory, which opened its doors in 1874, just a stone's throw away from The Eagle. This proximity would prove significant, as it laid the groundwork for the inn's connection with one of the most significant moments in scientific history.

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- Roman Boldyrev

Two of The Eagle’s most notable scientific patrons were Francis Crick and James Watson. It was here that they famously announced their discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953. Regulars at The Eagle, they raised pints in tribute to their scientific achievement.

This revelation, hailed as the "secret of life," marked a monumental breakthrough in scientific understanding. Providing the backdrop for this groundbreaking moment in scientific history, The Eagle is forever linked to one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century.

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- Matt Brown

Today, even though the Cavendish Laboratory has relocated to a new site, visitors to The Eagle can still witness the echoes of this historic moment. A blue plaque adorns the pub, commemorating Crick's announcement and honouring the contributions of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins to the discovery of DNA. To toast to this milestone, patrons can enjoy a pint of the specially crafted "Eagle's DNA" ale, a fitting tribute to the discovery.

Wartime Graffiti

But the pub's allure extends beyond its scientific legacy. During World War II, The Eagle earned its place in history as a favourite haunt of RAF pilots from nearby airbases, including the famous Duxford. Amidst the camaraderie, the pilots began a tradition of marking their presence on the ceiling using candles, pens, petrol lighters, and even lipstick, etching their names, squadron numbers, and doodles into the woodwork.

As the war waned, these markings faded into obscurity beneath layers of smoke and dirt, only to resurface years later when the ceiling was cleaned. The rediscovery of this historical graffiti sparked intrigue among pub-goers, who now flock to witness the eclectic array of inscriptions covering nearly every inch of the once-hidden ceiling. Today these poignant messages have been preserved, honouring the bravery and sacrifice of those who served.

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- b. n.

Inside The Eagle and Ghost Tales

Step inside, and you'll find more than just a pub. The Eagle offers a diverse menu of irresistible food and drink, from hearty British classics to freshly ground coffee. Whether you're seeking a quick pint after work or a leisurely Sunday roast, there's something to satisfy every palate. Just keep an eye out for the odd ghost!

That’s right, legend has it that over 300 years ago, during a devastating fire that swept through the upper levels of the building, a tragic event unfolded. A barmaid, unable to open a window to escape the flames, lost her life. Ever since, it's said that the window remains open as a tribute, with staff noting an eerie sensation of suffocation if it ever dares to close.

The Eagle
- Roman Boldyrev

Despite its haunting tales, The Eagle continues to be a place of comfort for the local community. In 2018, plans were approved by the city council for a renovation project, ensuring that this historic establishment would be preserved for generations to come. Owner Greene King emphasised the importance of these "minor" works, recognising their significance in safeguarding the integrity of the building and the intricate details of its past.

Our Thoughts…

Although managed by Greene King, the Eagle Pub's Grade II-listed premises are owned by Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, lending an air of academic gravitas to its already rich history. Today, the pub continues to draw a diverse crowd, from curious tourists eager to explore its wartime legacy and witness the site where the Watson-Crick DNA discovery was announced, to academics and researchers seeking solace in its traditional ambiance.

Affectionately dubbed the "RAF Bar" for its ceiling adorned with wartime graffiti, the Eagle stands as a testament to resilience and camaraderie, offering a pub experience unlike any other in London.

The Eagle
- sean_hickin

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