by Ben Johnson
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 have Music…
The nursery rhyme, ‘Ride a Cock Horse’, has made Banbury one of the best-known towns in England. It has been suggested that the ‘Fine Lady’ of the nursery rhyme may have been Lady Godiva, wife of Leofric of Coventry, famous for her ride, allegedly naked, through that city some 900 years ago. It is more likely to have been a local girl riding in a traditional May Day procession. The original cross was pulled down at the end of the 16th century. The present cross was erected in 1859 to celebrate the wedding of the then Princess Royal to Prince Frederick of Prussia.
Above: The ‘Ride a Cock Horse’ statue in Banbury town centre
The name Banbury is said to be derived from ‘Banna’, a local Saxon lord who is said to have settled there in the 6th century. The Domesday Book has an entry for ‘Banesberie’ (Banbury).
In the 13th century it had grown to become an important wool trading centre. The great fire of 1628 destroyed many buildings, although some still survive 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.
The opening of the M40 in 1990 now provides easy access by road to the Midlands, the North and London. Today Banbury is a very attractive, thriving market town, with excellent shopping including small and independent shops as well as well known High Street stores.
Apart from the Cross, Banbury is also noted for its Banbury Cakes which can be bought at the various bakeries in the town. At one time these little fruit and spice cakes were exported all over the world.
Market days are Thursdays and Saturdays, the market being right in the centre of the shopping area. You can find almost anything or everything for sale; there are stalls selling fruit, vegetables, CD’s, clothes, gifts, plants, coffee, hardware, handbags, pet food…..! In the narrow, cobbled streets surrounding the market square you will find several excellent coffeehouses where you can taste the famous Banbury Cakes.
One of Banbury’s most attractive features as a destination has to be it’s location, on the edge of the Cotswolds and the Cherwell Valley, a most beautiful area of England.
Selected Attractions in and around Banbury
Historic Town Trail
Follow the Historic Town Trail or join one of the free guided walks around Banbury. Contact the Tourist Information Centre at Banbury Museum for more details. Tel: + 44 (0) 1295 259 855
Spiceball Park Rd, Banbury, Oxfordshire, OX16 2PQ. Telephone: 01295 259 855
The story of Banbury – Cakes, canal, plush, agricultural machinery. History and art exhibitions, coffee bar.
Banbury Cross, Horsefair.
The cross dates from 1859 when it was erected to commemorate the marriage of Victoria to the Crown Prince of Prussia. Designed by J.Gibbs of Oxford. Figures of Victoria and George V added in 1914.
St Mary’s Church
St Mary’s Church was built in 1797 and is famous for its Pepperpot tower and beautifully restored interior. It can be found in the historic Banbury Cross area. More information on www.banburystmary.org.uk
Above: St Mary’s Church, Banbury
Off the B4525 road from Banbury to Northampton. 7 miles NE of Banbury.
Tel: 01295 760205
16th century home of George Washington’s ancestors. Frequent Living History events throughout the year – check out our Living History Diary for details.
Broughton Castle, Near Banbury.
Home of Lord Saye and Sele’s family since 1451. Moated mansion with early 14th century core. Open: May to September, Wed. and Sunday 2-5pm Tel: 01295 276 070
Farnborough Hall, National Trust.
Georgian House in remarkable setting with garden temples, walks and a view of Edgehill. Home of Holbech family for 300 years. Tel: 01295 690 002
How to get here
Banbury is situated in the north of the county of Oxfordshire, easily accessible by both road and rail.