Nestled on the banks of the River Cherwell, the market town of Banbury is full of hidden intrigue with a rich history dating back to well over 2,000 years ago. From cakes to Oliver Cromwell, from canals to John Craven – here are 11 Banbury facts to sink your teeth into.
1. Possibly the town’s biggest claim to fame is the nursery rhyme “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross”. Unfortunately, the Banbury Cross described in the nursery rhyme is no longer in the state as described in the rhyme, since it was knocked down by Puritans in July 1600.
2. There is now a statue of the fine lady mentioned in the nursery rhyme, which was unveiled in 2005. The bronze statue was sculpted in Stoke and cast in Denbighshire, except for the frog on the base, which was made in Birmingham and added later. The fine lady’s sculptors also constructed the statue of Stanley Matthews outside Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium.
3. The town is also famous for Banbury Cakes, a currant-filled cake not too different from an Eccles cake. The sweet treats have been causing headaches for Banbury dentists ever since they were first made and sold by Edward Welchman from his shop on Parsons Street during the 17th Century.
[bctt tweet=”The saying ‘red sky at night, shepherd’s delight’ was popularised by chapbooks that were created in #Banbury “]
4. An Iron Age settlement dating back to 200BC was discovered during excavations for the construction of an office block on Hennef Way in 2002. The site was found to contain 150 pieces of pottery and stone. A later Roman villa was also found at nearby Wykham Park.
5. Banbury was a centre for cheaply produced children’s stories, known as chapbooks. The saying “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight” was popularised by one such chapbook.
6. Novelist Anthony Burgess taught at Banbury Grammar School for several years in the 1950s. It was around this time that the author of A Clockwork Orange completed his first full-length play, having moved to nearby Adderbury with his first wife Lynne.
7. Tooley’s Boat Yard is home to the country’s oldest dry dock, aged more than 200 years old. Writer and biographer Tom Rolt had a canal boat restored there, and embarked on a voyage through England’s waterways that led to their revival. A Banbury Bridge over the Oxford Canal is named after Rolt.
8. Countryfile presenter John Craven lives in the area, and the former Newsround frontman often presents features for the show from here.
9. Banbury was a key base of operations for Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. He is reputed to have planned the Battle of Edge Hill from the back room of Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn.
10. Following a House of Commons petition in 1648, Banbury Castle was largely demolished and the reclaimed materials were used to repair other buildings damaged during the English Civil War.
11. Broughton Castle has been used as a backdrop in several films, including Shakespeare in Love, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Madness of King George. Parts of the 1975 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show and the titles for Noel’s House Party were also filmed there. It also featured in the BBC’s recent six-part adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.
So how many of our Banbury facts did you know? Whether you were a novice or a student of Burgess himself, you’re sure to be an expert on this corner of Oxfordshire now. You might even have a craving for a Banbury cake as well, and who could blame you?