Popular Oxford pub ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ closed its doors for the last time on Saturday evening.
The pub, located near The Randolph hotel in a side street named Friars Entry, has long been a popular retreat for Oxford students and locals alike, and has developed a reputation for its wide selection of real ales.
The news of the pub’s closure was only widely known a week beforehand, as landlord Charles Eld, 63, decided that the rent costs and changes to drinking culture no longer made the pub viable as a business. Mr. Eld told the Oxford Mail: “What has caused a massive issue is minimum alcohol pricing, which puts a great strain on pub owners. The culture of drinking has changed too and we can’t compete with supermarket pricing of alcohol.”
Voted Oxford Pub of the Year in 2009, 2011, and 2012 by members of the Campaign for Real Ales (CAMRA), the pub played host to four beer festivals and two cider festivals a year, as well as being a popular meeting point for groups such as the Oxford University Real Ale Society.
President Ben Clough commented: “One of OURAS’s favourite pubs in the city centre, the Madding could always be trusted to serve a good pint, and its constantly changing range of ales was one of the best in the city – we hope it may bounce back in another form. Whilst its closure reflects the current difficult environment for landlords, the beer scene in Oxford has actually seemed to be improving over the last few years, and is currently pretty strong in Jericho and East Oxford.”
Online forums have also seen outpourings from fans. One member commented: “FFTMC was the best pub by far in Oxford, sensible price, no hassle and a great atmosphere, mainly thanks to the great regulars and the fantastic beers.”
CAMRA estimates that pubs are closing at a rate of 31 a week, up from 26 in 2013, and two a week are turned into supermarkets. The House of Commons held a debate on earlier this month on tightening up planning laws, which currently allow pubs to be converted without permission, unlike buildings such as nightclubs.
The name ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ was a reference to Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel of the same name. It was chosen to reflect the difference in atmosphere between the narrow lane Friars Entry and the bustling nearby George Street, the location of many of the city’s restaurants and bars