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The Eagle Pub

By Ben Comber

The courtyard of The Eagle pub in Cambridge
The courtyard of The Eagle pub in Cambridge

Steeped in history, and a signiture ale to boot.

The second-oldest pub in Cambridge (the Pickerel Inn on Magdelene Street is thought to be oldest, dating back to the 1500s), and situated opposite Cambridge's oldest building (St Bene't's Church), The Eagle has a vibrant history and has become a Cambridge institution.

It was originally opened as a coaching house in 1667 as the 'Eagle and Child' , and is now famous for it's connection to World War II USAF and RAF pilots, and the discovery of DNA.

James Watson and Francis Crick, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for discovering the 'secret of life', that DNA is formed in a double helix.

The Eagle, where the Cambridge University alumni supposedly went to eat lunch on the same table, every day, is where they made the announcement of their breakthrough, on February 28 1953.

An English Heritage blue plaque is now mounted outside of the pub to commemorate the event.

Through to the back of the pub is the RAF bar, where the ceiling is covered in signatures, slogans and drawings of pilots from the British and US Air Forces who would congregate in the blacked-out bar during the long nights between deadly missions.

By the late 80s the ceiling was covered by decades of cigarette smoke, but after its discovery the building owners, Cambridge University's Corpus Christi College, refurbished the pub and the ceiling was restored.

Former RAF Chief Technician James Chainey, who served from 1943 to 1969, took on the mammoth task of deciphering the scrawls and researching their meaning. He has managed to identify the numbers of dozens of squadrons, units, mottos, personnel and badges.


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