Banbury is a market town located on the River Cherwell in northern Oxfordshire, England. It had a population of 43,867 at the 2001 census, though this figure has increased markedly in recent years. Banbury is part of the Cherwell district. 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 has a shopping centre called Castle Quay. Banbury's main industries include car components, electrical goods, plastics, food processing, and printing. Banbury is home to the world's largest coffee-producing facility (Kraft Foods), built in 1964. The town is famed for Banbury cakes – similar to Eccles cakes but oval in shape. Since July 2000 it has hosted a unique gathering of traditional mock animals, from around the UK and beyond, at the annual Banbury Hobby Horse Festival.
The surrounding area is known informally by some as Banburyshire and covers the north half of the Cherwell district and neighbouring areas. It has one of the fastest growing populations in the country. As Banbury lies near the Oxfordshire border, "Banburyshire" includes parts of Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.
During excavations for the building of an office in Hennef Way in 2002, the remains of an Iron Age settlement with circular buildings, dating back to 200 AD were found. The site contained around 150 pieces of pottery and stone. Later, there was a Roman villa at nearby Wykham Park.
Banbury itself developed in the Anglo-Saxon period under strong Danish influence, starting in the latter half of the fifth century. The name Banbury may have derived from "Banna", a Saxon chieftain said to have built his stockade there in the sixth century, and "bury" meaning settlement. The Saxon spelling was Banesbyrig. The name appears as "Banesberie" in the Domesday Book.
The Saxons built Banbury on the west bank of the River Cherwell. On the opposite bank they built Grimsbury, which was later incorporated into Banbury.
Banbury stands at the junction of two ancient roads: Salt Way (still used as a bridle path to the west and south of the town), its primary use being the transportation of salt; and Banbury Lane, which began near Northampton and closely followed the modern 22-mile-long road before running through Banbury's High Street and on 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 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 Civil War as a base of operations for Oliver Cromwell, who purportedly planned the Battle of Edge Hill in the back room (which can still be visited) of a local inn, The Reindeer, a noted hostelry to this day.
For centuries, trading in wool, ale, cakes and cheese created wealth for the town. Wool was first referred to in 1268, and cheese was manufactured from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Communications have always played a major role in the town's prosperity and prevented it from being just a quiet rural market town. It was a notable stagecoach stop and both the Red Lion and White Lion were coaching inns of note. Wealthy travellers would leave well supplied with Banbury Cakes.
Banbury was ravaged by fire in 1628. Although some buildings have survived to the present day, many were destroyed.
The construction of the Oxford Canal in 1790 greatly aided the town's growth. Later the railways also helped its expansion: in 1850 the first rails reached Banbury, one line from the Great Western Railway and one from the London and North Western Railway, giving Banbury two stations side by side: the Great Western station, always the town's main station, later became known as Banbury Bridge Street, while the London & North Western became Banbury Merton Street. Merton Street closed in 1959 to allow all traffic to be concentrated on the main station. The railway lines to Brackley and Woodford Halse (both in Northamptonshire) closed in 1961 and 1966 respectively, but the main station, called Banbury, is a busy commuter and tourist station, 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). The former mineral line from Banbury to an ironstone quarry beside Wroxton village opened in about 1900 and closed in 1967 after the quarry was exhausted. The small opencast mine was heavily used during World War II.
Until its closure in June 1998, Banbury was home to the largest livestock market in western Europe.
The town saw rapid expansion during the 1960s as housing was built for the overspill from London. Banbury's continued growth was accelerated by the completion of the M40 motorway which gave faster access by road to London and Birmingham.
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 Cherwell district, an unparished area with Charter Trustees. A civil parish with a town council was set up in 2000.
Due to the building of the M40 motorway, Banbury is now a sizeable, prosperous town with good industry, although the town has not expanded quite as rapidly as some had anticipated. It is now one of the major commuter towns for London, Oxford, Solihull and Birmingham. The M40 also provides local residents great access to both the Midlands and the southeast.
Banbury also has rail services run by Chiltern Railways to Warwick, Birmingham and London Marylebone via the non-electrified Chiltern Main Line that runs from London Marylebone. 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, Stansted, as well as direct services to Reading, Bournemouth, Brighton, Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
The Oxford Canal snakes its way through Banbury, providing a stopping point for narrowboat owners, and although the canal is no longer used for freight, it remains a busy and bustling waterway as it joins to the main Grand Union Canal further north.
Hennef Way (A422) was upgraded to a dual carriageway easing traffic on the heavily congested road and providing better links to north Banbury and the town centre from the M40. The project was planned to take 85 weeks but was finished 6 weeks overdue.
There have been recent suggestions to build a ring road around Banbury or add a relief road from Bodicote to ease town centre traffic although none of these plans have yet gone forth.
The town also has significant numbers of other Eastern European populations, notably Hungarians and Lithuanians.
The English nursery rhyme "Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross" refers to a cross destroyed by Puritans in 1602. In April 2005, Princess Anne 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.
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. The Banbury & District Review is published Thursdays and released for delivery on Friday. The Commuter is released for delivery on Monday.
Banbury is located in the Cherwell Valley therefore 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 hills include Crouch Hill and many others to the east of the town.
Banbury is located at the bank of the River Cherwell, and it 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 3 miles from the Midlands border. Some of the town's population would describe it as being in the Midlands, but most believe it to be in the south.
The club runs several sides of varying age groups and abilities with four Saturday sides. The First XI play in the ECB Home Counties Premier League, the highest standard of club cricket. The Second, Third and Fourth XI play in the Cherwell League competing against other club sides in the county. The club also manages a Sunday side, which competes in ECB National Club Championship, which has seen the club, reach the last 16 in recent years. A midweek side play in the Brackley & District Midweek League a 20 over competition on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer.
Banbury Cricket Club also has a comprehensive youth set up coached by qualified coaches including club professional and Director of Cricket, Paul Taylor (Northants & England) offering cricket at under 11, 13, 15, 17 levels. Several of the players from the youth set up have gone on to represent their counties at their age group and the club has now seen a few of these youth players go on to play in the clubs First XI.
Banbury Twenty Club was formed in 1932 by an original twenty members. It is a founder member of the Cherwell Cricket League and still competes in the League's highest division.
The Club run two Saturday sides which compete in Cherwell League Divisions one and four respectively. The club also play in the Brackley & District Midweek League on a Wednesday evening.
The Club runs two youth teams (U13/U15) who compete in Oxfordshire and South Northants competitions and are coached by ECB qualified coaches. The Club's youth policy is proud to have produced players such as Rob Cunliffe who played for the all-conquering Gloucestershire side that won the treble in 2000.
Two other notable names from the Club include Keith Arnold and Mike Wedderburn. Arnold is an Oxfordshire seam bowler and 2nd highest minor counties wicket taker ever, while Sky Sports News presenter Wedderburn used to play county cricket for Hampshire and rugby for Harlequins
Many of these sporting clubs have close ties with local schools, encouraging children of all abilities to participate. Blessed George Napier RC Secondary School in Banbury was recently granted specialist status as a sports college.
Banbury is twinned with: