BEER lovers fear that an historic Oxford pub's search for new management could result in it losing its distinctive character.

The city's branch of the Campaign for Real Ale has raised concerns following the announcement last week that a new management team will soon be installed in the Lamb and Flag in St Giles.

The group, which named the pub the best in Oxford in 2016, is worried that if a brewery or pub company took over then the quality of the beer and atmosphere could suffer.

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Spokesman Dave Richardson said: "The Lamb and Flag is a CAMRA multi-award winning pub, voted our pub of the year on several occasions and scoring consistently highly for the quality of its beer.

Oxford Mail:

"This is partly because it is a free house with no ties to a brewery or pub owning company, and our worry is that one of the pub chains might take on the lease and turn a very historic and characterful pub into just another corporate outlet.

"Let's hope at the very least that it remains a free house."

The building's owners St John's College has hired Savills to put in place the new management agreement and is offering the pub free of trading ties for a term of no more than five years.

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For the last eight years, landlord Martin Siggery was in charge at the popular drinking spot, which was previously visited by famous authors including C.S. Lewis and Thomas Hardy.

When asked by the Oxford Mail why new management was necessary, the college's bursar Prof Andrew Parker said: “The pub is in need of refurbishment and the college is looking forward working with a new partner together on this project.”

Oxford Mail:

Dave Richardson, Mutt Bullock, Tony Goulding and Steve Lawrence of Oxford CAMRA. Picture: Ric Mellis

When interviewed by this paper upon winning the pub of the year in 2016, Mr Siggery said it was the lack of brewery ties that was at the heart of its success.

Speaking at the time he said: “I guess we are lucky in the fact we are not branded so we can buy what we like to suit customers.

“People always enjoy the quality of beer we have, but also the choice and the values we stand for.

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“The staff also have a big role to play and deserve a lot of credit. Customers don’t just come for the drink but also to see the people who work here.”

Fears the pub could suffer once it changes hands have been echoed by Oxford Mail readers.

Oxford Mail:

One commenter said: "This is concerning. The L&F is one of the best pubs in central Oxford and it would be awful if it went downhill as a result of management changes."

The college has not commented further on what the new management could mean for the pub but has said it hopes to put in place an agreement that continues the 'wonderful' pub's 400 year history.

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Chris Bickle, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills, said: “Oxford...has seen a great deal of investment in recent years with more bars, restaurants and shops opening in the centre.

"The character, vibrancy and diversity of the city is what makes it so appealing. The Lamb & Flag is a superb example of a historic pub and we are confident it will generate plenty of interest.”