Claiming to be the oldest pub in Oxford, there has been a pub on this site since 1242. In 1583 it was temporarily known as Furres Inn after its then owner, Matthew Harrison, who had a pet bear named Furze – hence, perhaps, The Bear. An alternative explanation for the pub’s name is that it took as its sign the emblem of the bear and ragged staff on the crest of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick.
Fashionable in the 17th century with circuit judges and royal commissioners among its clientele, it was then an enormous establishment, boasting over thirty bedrooms, with stabling for a similar number of horses. In the 18th century, the Bear became a coaching inn and depot for Oxford Machine coaches, which carried passengers to London for a fare of 10 shillings, until its closure in 1801.
Now much reduced in size, The Bear today dates from the 17th Century, and was once the home of the ostler, the man in charge of stabling the horses.
The Bear stands on the corner of Alfred and Blue Boar Streets, opposite Bear Lane, just up from Christ Church College.
Review by Chris Peters, Tours of Oxford.