Banbury, Banesberie, Banesbyrig
Just off Junction 11 of the M40 Motorway, Banbury is approx. 20 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Leamington Spa, Oxford, Towcester, Buckingham and Bicester. Banbury also sits just on the north-eastern edge of The Cotswolds, the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England & Wales. The very tip of The Cotswolds is just a few miles away at Edgehill, site of the famous battle of the English Civil War (23rd October,1642).
What's On in and Around Banbury?
Ride a Cock-horse to Banbury Cross
You may have heard of the historic Banbury Cakes?... or, if not, you can't fail to have heard the famous nursery rhyme, most popularly know in the following form:
Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall make music wherever she goes
There are other variations on the rhyme, one of which is:
Rice a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see an old woman get up on a horse
A ring on her finger, a bonnet of straw
The strangest old woman that ever you saw
The origins and history of the rhyme are hotly disputed. Almost definitely dating back to before 1600, the earliest printed version of the rhyme can be traced back now only as far as the mid-eighteenth century. The lady referred to in the rhyme has variously believed to be Celia Fiennes related to the Wykham-Fiennes family at Broughton Castle, Elizabeth I, Lady Godiva, or could possibly be in reference to a pagan festival celebrated in the town, when a young girl was reported to ride a white horse through the fields and town. Of course, it's up to the imagination to decide which of these theories to believe. What cannot be denied is that this popular rhyme has made Banbury one of the best known towns, by name, in the UK.
A modern statue of the fine lady on her horse (unveiled by the Princess Royal on the 27th April, 2005) can now be seen near the site of the current Banbury Cross.
The famous Banbury Cakes, a sweet pastry filled with dried spiced fruit, are thought to originate as far back as the thirteenth century, and the famous Cakeshop (no longer standing) was built around the mid-sixteenth century. Brown's Banbury Cakes are still produced locally at the village of Hook Norton, and can be purchased around the town. The Brown family took over the Cakeshop in 1868, and although there is no longer a "cakeshop" in the town centre, the recipe has remained with the Browns until the present day. Banbury Cakes rate a mention in this poem by Walter de la Mare:
by Walter de la Mare (1873 - 1956)
I know a little cupboard
With a teeny tiny key,
And there's a jar of Lollypops
For me, me, me.
It has a little shelf, my dear,
As dark as dark can be,
And there's a dish of Banbury Cakes
For me, me, me.
I have a small fat grandmama
With a very slippery knee,
And she's the Keeper of the Cupboard
With the key, key, key.
And when I'm very good my dear
As good as good can be,
There's Banbury Cakes and Lollypops
For me, me, me.
Originally there were at least three crosses in Banbury: the High Cross, or Market Cross, a White Cross, and a High or Bread Cross on Butchers Row. None of these survive, and almost certainly all had been destroyed, or damaged beyond redemptio, by 1621. A poem written by Richard Corbet between 1618-1621 described the crosses as ...'old stumps of tree or stooles for horsemen', so they crosses had almost certainly disappeared by this time, most likely the victim of Puritan fervour.
The current Banbury Cross, located in the centre of a roundabout at the top end of the High Street, was built in 1859 for the commemoration of the marriage of Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, to Freidrich III, German Emperor and King of Prussia. Impressive in stature, it stands at 52ft 6 inches high. If you are planning a visit to the Cross, do bear in mind that it's quite difficult to successfully view or photograph the Cross except for quiet times of the day or night when the traffic slows around it.
The Oxford Canal at Banbury
The Oxford Canal runs through the eastern side of the town centre in Banbury and is popular with boaters, walkers, cyclists and anglers. The Oxford Canal is 78 miles long and links Oxford with Coventry, via Rugby and Banbury. It was built to link London with the industrial Midlands and was one of the earliest canals to be built in England, opening on 1 January, 1790. You can see a working lock in the town centre, near to the Castle Quay Shopping Centre, Museum, and Tooley's Boatyard. The Bookshop is delighted to have been given a mention in the 2008 edition of Pearson's Oxford Grand Union Canal Guide (pictured below).
Click here for more local links and places of interest in and around Banbury, North Oxfordshire & The Cotswolds.