Banbury Town Hall
Banbury shown within Oxfordshire
|OS grid reference|
|- London||63 mi (101 km) SE|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|Website||Banbury town council|
|List of places: UK • England • Oxfordshire|
Banbury ( //) is a market town and civil parish on the River Cherwell in the Cherwell District of Oxfordshire. It is 64 miles (103 km) northwest of London, 38 miles (61 km) southeast of Birmingham, 27 miles (43 km) south of Coventry and 21 miles (34 km) north northwest of the county town of Oxford. The urban area, including surrounding parishes, had a population of 43,867 at the 2001 census, though this figure has increased in recent years to approximately 45,000.
The Member of Parliament for Banbury is Tony Baldry.
Banbury is a significant commercial and retail centre for the surrounding area, which is predominantly rural. Banbury's main industries are car components, electrical goods, plastics, food processing, and printing. Banbury is home to the world's largest coffee-processing facility (Kraft Foods), built in 1964. The town is famed for Banbury cakes – similar to Eccles cakes but oval in shape. Since July 2000 Banbury has hosted a unique gathering of traditional mock animals, from around the UK, at the annual Banbury Hobby Horse Festival.
The surrounding area is known informally as Banburyshire and covers the north half of the Cherwell district and neighbouring areas. As Banbury lies near the Oxfordshire border, "Banburyshire" includes parts of Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.
Origin of the town's name
The name Banbury derives from "Banna", a Saxon chieftain said to have built a stockade there in the 6th century (or Ban(n)a possibly a byname meaning ‘felon’, ‘murderer’), and "burgh" meaning settlement. The Saxon spelling was Banesbyrig. The name appears as "Banesberie" in Domesday Book. Another known spelling was 'Banesebury' in Medieval times.
During excavations for the construction of an office building in Hennef Way in 2002, the remains of a British Iron Age settlement with circular buildings dating back to 200 BC were found. The site contained around 150 pieces of pottery and stone. Later there was a Roman villa at nearby Wykham Park.
The area was settled by the Saxons around the late 5th century. In about 556 Banbury was the scene of a battle between the local Anglo-Saxons of Cynric and Ceawlin, and the local Romano-British. It was a local centre for Anglo-Saxon settlement by the mid-6th century. Banbury developed in the Anglo-Saxon period  under Danish influence, starting in the late 6th century. It was assessed at 50 hides in the Domesday survey and was then held by the bishop of Lincoln.
The Saxons built Banbury on the west bank of the River Cherwell. On the opposite bank they built Grimsbury, which was part of Northamptonshire but was incorporated into Banbury in 1889. Neithrop was one of the oldest areas in Banbury, having first been recorded as a hamlet in the 13th century. It was formally incorporated into the borough of Banbury in 1889.
Banbury stands at the junction of two ancient roads: Salt Way (used as a bridle path to the west and south of the town), its primary use being transportation of salt; and Banbury Lane, which began near Northampton and is closely followed by the modern 22-mile-long road. It continued through what is now Banbury's High Street and towards the Fosse Way at Stow-on-the-Wold. Banbury's mediæval prosperity was based on wool.
Banbury Castle was built from 1135 by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and survived into the Civil War, when it was besieged. Due to its proximity to Oxford, the King's capital, Banbury was at one stage a Royalist town, but the inhabitants were known to be strongly Puritan. The castle was demolished after the war.
Banbury played an important part in the English Civil War as a base of operations for Oliver Cromwell, who is reputed to have planned the Battle of Edge Hill in the back room (which can still be visited) of a local inn, The Reindeer as it was then known (today's Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn). The town was pro-Parliamentarian, but the castle was manned by a Royalist garrison who supported King Charles I. In 1645 during the English Civil War, Parliamentary troops were billeted in nearby Hanwell village  for nine weeks and villagers petitioned the Warwickshire Committee of Accounts to pay for feeding them.
The opening of the Oxford Canal from Hawkesbury Junction to Banbury on 30 March 1778 gave the town a cheap and reliable supply of Warwickshire coal. In 1787 the Oxford Canal was extended southwards, finally opening to Oxford on 1 January 1790. The canal's main boat yard was the original outlay of today’s Tooley's Boatyard.
Peoples' Park was set up as a private park in 1890 and opened in 1910, along with the adjacent bowling green.
The land south of the Foscote Private Hospital in Calthorpe and Easington farm were mostly open farmland until the early 1960s as shown by the Ordnance Survey maps of 1964, 1955 and 1947. It had only a few farmsteads, the odd house, an allotment field (now under the Sainsbury’s store), the Municipal Borough of Banbury council’s small reservoir just south of Easington farm and a water spring lay to the south of it. The Ruscote estate, which now has a notable South Asian community, was expanded in the 1950s because of the growth of the town due to the London overspill and further grew in the mid-1960s.
British Railways closed Merton Street station and the Buckingham to Banbury line to passenger traffic at the end of 1960. Merton Street freight depot continued to handle livestock traffic for Banbury's cattle market until 1966, when this too was discontinued and the railway dismantled. In March 1962 Sir John Betjeman celebrated the line from Culworth Junction in his poem Great Central Railway, Sheffield Victoria to Banbury. British Railways closed this line too in 1966.
The main station, now called simply Banbury, is now served by trains running between London Paddington and Birmingham via Reading, Oxford and Leamington Spa, and from London Marylebone via High Wycombe and Bicester, the fastest non-stop train taking 68 minutes to London Marylebone (and 62 minutes for the return journey).
Banbury used to be home to Western Europe's largest cattle market, situated on Merton Street in Grimsbury. For many decades, cattle and other farm animals were driven there on the hoof from as far as Scotland to be sold to feed the growing population of London and other towns. Since its closure in June 1998 a new housing development has been built on its site which includes Dashwood Primary School. The estate, which lies between Banbury and Hanwell, was built in between 2005–06, on the grounds of the former Hanwell Farm.
Local development plans
There was a plan in the late 2000s (decade) to expand the Bretch Hill estate westwards into local farmland, but this has now been suspended due to the credit crunch and local hostility to the plan, including the southern expansion towards Bodicote.
The Hanwell Fields Estate was built in the north between 2001 and 2009. It was intended to provide affordable social housing to the west and south of Banbury, and more upmarket housing in the Hanwell fields area.
The now derelict former Crest Hotels headquarters that can be seen behind the Morrisons garage has been disused since the late 1980s.
Industry and commerce
The Domesday Book in 1086 listed three mills, with a total fiscal value of 45 shillings, on the Bishop of Lincoln's demesne lands, and a fourth which was leased to Robert son of Waukelin by the Bishop. Among Banbury's four Medieval mills was probably a forerunner of Banbury Mill, first referred to by this name in 1695. In the year 1279, Laurence of Hardwick was also paying 3 marks (equivalent to 40 shillings) in annual rent to the Bishop for a mill in the then Hardwick hamlet.
The forerunners of Butchers Row were probably long standing butchers' stalls which were known to be in situ by 1438.
The Northern Aluminium Co. Ltd. or Alcan Industries Ltd. pig and rolled Aluminium factory was opened in 1931 on land acquired in 1929 on the east of the Southam road, in the then hamlet of Hardwick. The various Alcan facilities on the 53-acre site closed between 2006 and 2007. The factory was demolished between 2008 and 2009. The laboratory was also closed in 2004 and demolished in 2009.
In the central area were built many large shops, a bus station, and a large car park north of Castle Street. In 1969 proposals for the redevelopment of the central area were in hand, leading to the creation of the Castle shopping centre in 1977 (the centre was later combined into the Castle Quay centre). The 1977 plans to build a multi-storey car park on what is now the open air car park behind Matalan and Poundland were scrapped in 1978 and another one was built to the rear of the Castle Shopping Centre in 1978.
The former Hunt Edmunds brewery premises became Crest Hotels headquarters, but closed in the late 1970s and was abandoned in the late 1980s, while the Crown Hotel and the Foremost Tyres/Excel Exhausts shops found new owners after they closed in 1976 due to falling sales. Hella Manufacturing, a vehicle Electronics firm, closed its factory on the Southam Road in the mid 2000s (decade). The ironmonger, Hoods, opened in the mid 1960s and closed c. 2007, with the shop becoming part of the then enlarged Marks and Spencer shop.
Kraft Foods, Banbury
It was built in 1964 and was partly due to the London overspill. Kraft Foods Banbury is the Kraft centre of manufacturing with the Kraft UK headquarters located at Cheltenham.
The factory is still sometimes known as General Foods after the American company which originally owned the building, before 'GF' as it is commonly known was taken over by Kraft.
Banbury was once home to Western Europe's largest cattle market, on Merton Street in Grimsbury. The market was a key feature of Victorian life in the town and county. It was formally closed in June 1998, after being abandoned several years earlier and was replaced with a new housing development and Dashwood Primary School.
Transport and infrastructure
The Oxford Canal is a popular place for pleasure trips and tourist activity. The canal's main boat yard is now the listed site Tooley's Boatyard.
Banbury has rail services run by Chiltern Railways to Warwick and Birmingham, both running to London Marylebone via the non-electrified Chiltern Main Line. It also has services run by First Great Western to Oxford, Reading and London Paddington. Services to other parts of the country are provided by CrossCountry via Birmingham New Street, to Cardiff, Bristol, Southampton, Gloucester, Leicester, Stansted, as well as direct services to other cities across England and Scotland.
Banbury has an intra-urban bus service provided by Stagecoach Group which feeds the outlying villages and provides transport to places such as Oxford, Chipping Norton and Brackley. Geoff Amos Coaches runs a intra-urban bus to Rugby and Daventry. Heyfordian operates smaller services not covered by those of Stagecoach including routes from Banbury to places including Bicester, the Heyfords, Ardley, Towcester, Wappenham and Northampton. A local operator – Tex Coaches also runs regular routes from Banbury Town Centre to Brackley via Kings Sutton and Greatworth. Banbury is also served by the National Express coach service which runs regular services in and out of Banbury, to and from major UK towns and cities.
Hennef Way (A422) was upgraded to a dual carriageway easing traffic on the heavily congested road and providing north Banbury and the town centre with higher-capacity links to the M40.
In 2005 Oxfordshire County Council proposed building a ring road around Banbury, connecting the M40 to the Oxford Road at Bodicote, to ease town centre traffic. However this is not expected to be built until 2016 at the earliest.
Polish and East European immigration
Banbury has one of the UK's lowest unemployment rates, dipping as low as 1% in 2005, although it has since risen due to the recession which began in 2008. with a resultant high demand for labour. Once Poland joined the European Union in 2004, a number of Banbury-based employment agencies began advertising for staff in major Polish newspapers. According to an estimate by the Banbury Polish Association, there are between 5,000 and 6,000 Poles in the town. The influx of the largely Roman Catholic Polish workers has revitalised Banbury's Catholic churches, to the extent that at least one now offers a Mass said partially in Polish. Additionally specialist Polish food shops have opened as well as supermarkets such as Tesco opening specialist food counters for the Polish migrants.
Banbury has two local newspapers:
- The Banbury Guardian, which costs 50p and is a tabloid
- The Banbury Cake, also a free tabloid
The Banbury Guardian is published on Thursdays and goes on sale the same day. The Banbury Cake is published on Wednesdays and is released for delivery on Thursday.
Places of interest
At one time Banbury had many crosses (The High Cross, The Bread Cross and The White Cross), but these were destroyed by Puritans on 26 July 1600. Banbury remained without a cross for more than 250 years until the current Banbury Cross was erected in 1859 at the centre of the town to commemorate the marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal (eldest child of Queen Victoria) to Prince Frederick of Prussia. The current Banbury Cross is a stone, spire-shaped monument decorated in Gothic form. Statues of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V were added in 1914 to commemorate the coronation of George V. The cross is fifty-two feet six inches (16 metres) high, and topped by a gilt cross.
The English nursery rhyme "Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross", in its several forms, may refer to one of the crosses destroyed by Puritans in 1600. In April 2005, The Princess Royal unveiled a large bronze statue depicting the Fine Lady upon a White Horse of the nursery rhyme. It stands on the corner of West Bar and South Bar, just yards from the present Banbury Cross.
Banbury has a museum in the town centre near Spiceball Park, replacing the old museum near Banbury Cross. It is accessible over a bridge from the Castle Quay Shopping Centre or via Spiceball Park Road. Admission to the museum is free. The town's tourist information centre is located in the museum entrance in the Castle Quay Shopping Centre.
Tooley's Boatyard was built in 1790 and is a historic site with a 200 year old blacksmiths' shop.
The Spiceball Centre and park
The Spiceball Park is the largest park in Banbury. It is east of the Oxford Canal, mainly west of the River Cherwell, North of Castle Quay and South of Hennef Way. It includes three large fields, a children's play area and a skateboard park. Across the road from the main park there is the sports centre, which includes a swimming pool, courts, café and gym facilities.
The sports centre began to be re-developed in late 2009, for a new centre and café, which was completed by mid 2010.
Other recreational areas and parks
Neithrop is home to the People's Park which opened in 1910, and has a bird house, tennis courts, a large field and a children's play area. The park is often used in the summer to hold small festivals. The park is also one of the town's biggest in terms of the area covered and one of the few major ones not to be built on a steep hill. Easington Recreation Ground is another principal park and recreational area.
Owing to the surrounding area's notable links with world motorsport, the town is home to many well known organisations within the industry. Prodrive, one of the world's largest motorsport and automotive technology specialists, are based in the town, as are a host of race teams involved in competition across many different disciplines and countries.
Within Formula One, two teams have had their base of operations in Banbury, the former Simtek team which competed in the 1994 and 1995 F1 World Championships was based on the Wildmere Industrial Estate, whilst the current Virgin Racing team has it's manufacturing and production facility sited on Thorpe Way Industrial Estate, utilising the building formerly owned by Ascari Cars, a luxury sports car manufacturer. Both Simtek and Virgin Racing have been brought to Banbury by Nick Wirth, who owned the Simtek team and was the former Technical Director at Virgin. Having bought the Formula 1 arm of Wirth's company, Virgin Racing intend to remain in Banbury for the foreseeable future until a brand new, larger facility is built in the area.
The Formula Fast Karting centre, a kart racing circuit itself designed by former Formula One race engineers, was established in 2009 as a leisure facility for the public, as well as offering training and technical support to drivers competing in karting across the UK. The track is located on the Wildmere Industrial Estate, close to Junction 11 linking the town to the M40 motorway.
Notable place names
- Since 1999 bridge 164 on the Oxford Canal in Banbury has borne Tom Rolt's name in commemoration of his book Narrow Boat (as does the Tom Rolt Centre at the Ellesmere Port section of the National Waterways Museum). A blue plaque commemorating Mr Rolt was unveiled at Tooley's Boatyard, Banbury on 7 August 2010 as part of the centenary celebrations of his birth.
- Concorde Avenue was named in a 1995 street naming contest in honour of the 50 years' peace (1945–1995) in Europe since the Second World War.
- Claypits Close was built in about 2007 and named after the old clay pit on which it was built. There were many small, Victorian clay pits and kilns in the south west of Banbury, but they had closed by the 1920s.
- Gillett Avenue was either named after Joseph Ashby Gillett, He ran Banbury's branch of 18th century Britain’s New Bank or his descendant Sarah Beatrice Gillett, who was mayor in 1926.
One of the campuses of Oxford and Cherwell Valley College as well as one of the international campuses of Fairleigh Dickinson University entitled Wroxton Abbey is also situated in Banbury. The town also has three secondary schools - North Oxfordshire Academy, Banbury School and Blessed George Napier Roman Catholic School and Sports College - and a number of primary schools. The local independent school is Tudor Hall, a girls' boarding school.
Banbury was one of the boroughs reformed by the Municipal Reform Act 1835. It retained a borough council until 1974, when under the Local Government Act 1972 it became part of the traditionally Conservative-ruled Cherwell District Council, an unparished area with Charter Trustees. A civil parish with a town council was set up in 2000.
- Thomas Webb was the first Mayor of Banbury town and held office in 1607, 1619, 1629 and 1638.
- Surinder Dhesi was the town's first Asian mayor in 2004 and 2005.
- A housing estate was named after Thomas Tims(?) (1840), although it is called the Timms Estate and is generally believed to be named after the developer (Timms).
- Roads are named after Sarah Beatrice Gillett(?) (1926), William George Mascord (1929), Fred Mold (1930) and Arthur Fairfax (1897 and 1905).
Banbury is located in the Cherwell Valley, and consequently there are many hills in and around the town. Apart from the town centre much of Banbury is on a slope and each entrance into the town is downhill. Estates such as Bretch Hill and Hardwick are built on top of a hill and much of the town can be seen from both. Other notable hills include the suburban, Crouch Hill and the more central Pinn Hill, and Strawberry Hill on the outskirts of Easington. Mine Hill and Rye Hill lie along with many others to the north east, south east and west of the town.
Banbury is located at the bank of the River Cherwell which sweeps through the town, going just east of the town centre with Grimsbury being the only estate east of the river.
The town is at the northern extreme of the UK's South East England region, just two miles from the Midlands border.
Heavy clay and Ironstone deposits surround Banbury.
The Neithrop district of Banbury was the scene of rioting in 1589 after the Neithrop's maypole was destroyed by Puritans.
Reverend William Whateley (1583–1639), whose father was several times bailiff or mayor of Banbury, was a notable Banbury vicar and was instituted in 1610, but had already been a 'lecturer' there for some years. In 1626 Whateley refused communion to his own brother, who had been presented for religious incompetence. A report by the church wardens in 1619 said he was a well liked and tolerant priest. The Quakers' meeting hall by the town centre lane called 'The Leys' was built in 1751.
The dominant Religion in the town is Christianity, with many various denominations such as Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc. all present. The fastest growing denomination is Catholicism - the growth started mainly with large scale migration of Catholics to the town in 1960s in search of work. The Catholic population at this time was largely Irish or those of Irish descent. More recently since the start of the EU expansion in 2004, numbers of Catholics in Banbury have swelled again, this time due to a large influx of Eastern European Catholics, many originating from Poland.
Banbury has several sporting clubs, most notably Banbury United football club. There are also rugby, canoeing, golf and cricket clubs. These clubs represent a variety of age groups, and play at varying levels, from amateur to national.
Banbury United F.C. was first formed as Spencer Villa in 1931 and their home matches played at Middleton Road. At this time it was essentially a works club. In 1934, they changed their name to Banbury Spencer and moved to the Spencer Stadium. They had a lot of early success, winning most of the leagues which they played in.
Banbury is twinned with:
Twinning in Banbury began on 26 October 1978, at a public meeting held at the Post-Graduate Education Centre, and called on the initiative of the late Councillor Ron Smith, the then Town Mayor of Banbury. Initial visits between Banbury and Ermont in 1979, and for a long time after there was a period of informal relationship before a formal agreement was signed in 1982. Contact was first made with Hennef about a possible agreement in October 1980 and within a year the formal agreement was signed.
As a consequence of this, two roads in Banbury (Hennef Way and Ermont Way) have been named after the two towns. Likewise a former Railway station square in Hennef has been named Banburyplatz.
People associated with Banbury
- Police inspector James Roy Bradley, who was run down and killed by a suspect car at a local police road block in 1967 - the Bretch Hill estate's Bradley Arcade is named after him.
- John Craven - BBC Countryfile presenter resides in the Banbury area and has often presented Countryfile stories and features from around the area.
- Jo Joyner grew up in Bloxham and studied at the Warriner School. She is now best known as EastEnders' Tanya Branning.
- John Brooke-Little was a former officer of arms who lived in Banbury at the end of his life.
- Anthony Burgess, the celebrated novelist, taught at Banbury Grammar School (now Banbury School) for several years during the 1950s.
- Benjamin Franklin's grandfather Thomas Franklin is buried in Banbury. According to Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, his grandfather was born in 1598 and he visited Banbury to see his gravestone in 1758.
- Dermot Gallagher Irish football referee is a current resident.
- Benjamin Geen was born in Banbury and employed as a staff nurse at the Horton General Hospital. During December 2003 and January 2004, Geen poisoned 17 patients for the thrill of trying to resuscitate them. He was found guilty of two murders and 15 charges of grievous bodily harm in April 2006.
- Gary Glitter, born Paul Francis Gadd in Banbury, glam rock star and convicted paedophile.
- Larry Grayson was born in Banbury but grew up in Nuneaton.
- Richie Hawtin – better known as Plastikman – was born in the town in 1970.
- Alan Lloyd Hodgkin, British physiologist and biophysicist and Nobel Prize winner, was born in Banbury
- Daniel Neal, Earl of Banbury, Lord High Admiral and First Lord of the Admiralty of England 1646-1660.
- Lancelot Holland, the admiral who lost his life in HMS Hood in 1941 commanding the fleet which engaged the German battleship, Bismarck, grew up in the Banbury area.
- Chris Hutchings Former resident and current Ipswich Town coach.
- The former Prime Minister Lord North was also the MP for Banbury.
- Gordon Ramsay lived in Banbury for a time, attending local secondary school Drayton and North Oxfordshire Technical College.
Companies based in Banbury
- Kraft Foods Banbury
- Westminster group plc
- Banbury Sound 107.6FM
- Banbury Guardian
- Fast Eddies
- Banbury Rural District
- Banbury railway station
- Banbury Merton Street railway station
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- ^ Thames Valley Roll of Honour. Policememorial.org.uk. Retrieved on 2010-11-11.
- ^ National Police Memorial Roll for Great Britain. Policememorial.org.uk. Retrieved on 2010-11-11.
- ^ Banbury Guardian
- ^ "Nurse guilty of killing patients". BBC News. 18 April 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/4918462.stm.
Sources & further reading
- Clark, Ted (1992). Banbury History and Guide. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-0214-0.
- Compton, Hugh J (1976). The Oxford Canal. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. pp. 25, 37, 39. ISBN 0-7153-7238-6.
- Crossley, Alan (ed.); Christina Colvin, Janet Cooper, N.H. Cooper, P.D.A. Harvey, Marjorie Hollings, Judith Hook, Mary Jessup, Mary D. Lobel, J.F.A. Mason, B.S. Trinder, Hilary Turner (1972). Victoria County History: A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10 - Banbury Hundred. pp. 5–127.
- Potts, William; Clark, Edward T. (revised edition 1978) . History of Banbury: Story of the Development of a Country Town. Banbury: Gulliver Press. ISBN 0-906428-00-9.
- Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 435–444. ISBN 0-14-071045-0.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Banbury.|
- A history of Banbury
- Photos of Banbury and the surrounding area
- Banbury town council
- Banbury School website
- Banbury Cross Players
- Banbury United Football Club
- Banbury Golf Club
- Banbury Cricket Club
- Banbury in the Domesday Book
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