Banbury is inevitably associated in the minds of most people with two things – the famous Banbury cakes and the Banbury Cross of the nursery rhyme. This rhyme is believed to date back to pre-Christian times and originate from pagan May Day celebrations held in the town.
Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady ride on a white horse
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
She shall have music where-ever she goes
The original Cross was destroyed by the puritans in 1600 out of fear that Banbury folk would use the old market crosses as idols. The Cross you see today was built in 1859 to commemorate the wedding of the then Princess Royal to Prince Frederick of Prussia. The figures added in 1914 are of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V.
Visitors to the Cross today can also see the magnificent near-by statue of a Lady on a White Horse. Paid for by public subscription, the statute was unveiled in 2005 by the Princess Royal to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ascension to the throne of Queen Elizabeth II.
Banbury Cakes, which are a special fruit and pastry cake, which can still be purchased in the town today.
Banbury stands on an important crossroads which dates back to prehistoric times. Two routes dating back to 1000 BC met roughly at the location of the present Cross.
Around 500 AD Saxon mercenaries invaded the area and on finding a suitable ford over the River Cherwell decided to settle and fortify the town. It was thus that “Banesbyrig” began to develop.
Following destruction in 913 by Danish invaders, and again in 1065 by Northern insurgents, the Normans rebuilt the town and the 1086 Doomsday Book registers it as “Banesberie”.
The following 50 years saw a flourishing market develop which was granted a Charter to trade on a Thursday, which it continues to do to the present day.
In the 13th century Banbury had grown in status as an industrial town with the development of wool, leather and iron trades in the town
As well as seeing the destruction of the original Cross, the 17th century brought two major disasters to Banbury. In 1628 the great fire of Banbury destroyed at least a third of the largely wooden built town, and between 1642 and 1648 the Civil War saw Banbury being laid siege to on numerous occasions.
The opening of the Oxford Canal in 1790, the arrival of the railway in 1850 and the completion of the M40 motorway in 1991 all brought new industry and growth to the town.
Today it is difficult to imagine Banbury as the small market town it once was as not only are there many well known local, national and international companies located in and around Banbury, but the completion of a major indoor shopping centre in 2000 turned Banbury into a sub-regional shopping centre.
Even so, visitors to Banbury today can still see many interesting and historic buildings which give a flavour of how things used to be.