The famous Banbury Cross (picture above) is situated at a cross-roads on the broad Horsefair, is a mid-19th century replacement, erected to commemorate a royal wedding in 1858. The original medieval cross was destroyed by the Puritans in the early 17th century. The well-known nursery rhyme refers to the cross - ' Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross to see a finer lady on a white horse'. It is thought this rhyme referred to a visit by Queen Elizabeth I (see Strange Things).
Banbury Cakes, a special fruit and pastry cake, are still produced. At one time they were being sent as far afield as Australia, India and America.
The name Banbury may be derived from 'Banna', a local Saxon dignitary who is said to have built his stockade here in the 500's. By the time of William the Conqueror 'Banesberie' was mentioned in the Domesday book. In the 13th century it had grown to become an important wool trading centre bringing wealth to the local population. In 1628 the town was ravaged by fire which destroyed many buildings, though some have survived to the present day. The opening of the Oxford Canal in 1790 connecting Banbury with the Midlands bought new industries and growth which continued with the arrival of the railways.
Today Banbury is an expanding market and industrial town experiencing growth as a direct benefit of its proximity to the completed M40 motorway linking London to Birmingham via Oxford.
Banbury: Drop off at Horsefair, Long stay at Compton Road (free). OX16 2PR.
There is a fine sports centre, Spiceball Park, and by the old canal wharf nearby is Tooley's Boatyard, with its working forge, operational dry-dock and collection of antique equipment for repairing wooden narrow boats. This wharf is busy with colourful narrowboats throughout the summer months.
The High Street of Banbury is bustling with a wide variety of shopping and cafes. The pedestrianisation of parts of the town makes it a pleasant place to linger.
Banbury is also famous for its special Banbury Cakes which are elliptical in shape and made of light pastry lined with currants and have a lemon fragrance. They have been produced for at least 300 years.
The original medieval Norman church (the largest in the County), was blown up with gunpowder on the grounds that it was unsafe in 1790. The church was replaced by an elegant building in 1820 designed by Samuel Pepys Cockerell, the architect of Sezincote House (at Bourton-on-the-Hill), with Indian features including a dome. It was built of local ironstone which has proved vulnerable to weathering.
Places of Interest around and about
Banbury Museum - is situated in an attractive canal-side location in the centre of Banbury. The main entrance is in the Castle Quay Shopping Centre. Follow signs to Castle Quay.
A museum devoted to the history of the town with exhibitions of work by local artists.
Open Monday to Saturday 10.00am - 5.00pm (Closed Sunday). Admission free.
Tel: 01295 753752. E: email@example.com.
The Village of Aynho - Very attractive village with many of the south facing wall of the cottages having ancient apricot trees clinging to them. In bygone days the Lord of the Manor used to claim the fruit as part of the rent.
Aynhoe House and Park, facing the main road at centre of the village - The grand Elizabethan mansion over the centuries has been transformed into the imposing Georgian House we see to day. Part of the house is open to the public and the park is open May to September, Wednesdays and Thursdays, tel 01869 810636.
Broughton Castle and Church, 3 miles south west of Banbury - of great interest, owned by the Fiennes family since 1451. Broughton Castle was modified in the 16th century with most of the battlements being removed and has remained unchanged since that time to the present day. The castle is surrounded by a wide moat and is one of the most romantically situated castles in the country.
Pencil Sketch of Broughton Castle near Banbury by Richard Grassi
Upton House, 7 miles north west of Banbury. Upton House is a fine William and Mary mansion built of local Hornton stone and stands at the end of a long grass-bordered driveway, off the A422, Stratford-upon-Avon to Banbury road. National Trust property.
Bicester Designer Outlet village - 17 miles from Banbury.