‘Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross’, the words of the nursery rhyme sprang to mind when we decided to visit Banbury on the last day of our Cotswolds break. The market town certainly sounded appealing and we weren’t disappointed, even though the weather was wet and dismal.

There’s a mixture of old and new buildings; the first venue we went inside was Castle Quay Shopping Centre. The entrance façade has a historical past, being the former Cornhill Corn Exchange. The interior is contemporary, has expanded over time, and is where up-to-date retail outlets trade. There is also a food hall for dining or purchasing edibles to take home. Later, I was disappointed when I remembered we hadn’t sampled spicy currant Banbury Cakes whilst there.

There are a few accesses, and it wasn’t long before we were outside the quayside one and wandering along the Oxford Canal. Tooley’s Historic Dock and Forge are on the way. Flowers behind painted gates depict a man leading a horse with signage relating that the works were founded in 1788.

Narrowboats glide up and down the waterway, but most interesting of all is a dull wooden one moored up at the side. The former coal barge, Historic Narrowboat Hardy, was built in 1940 and is awaiting restoring to its former glory by Tooley’s boatyard.

Back in a central location by the marketplace, the white-stoned town hall is situated. Built in 1854 and of Gothic revival style, it makes a pretty picture with trees growing all around it. Mews and passageways leading from roads nearby add quaintness to the surroundings.

On a lane close to the High St, we were amused by some street art. A mural in black and white of a maid sweeping dust under a carpet is spray-painted on the side of a building in Butchers Row. Locals believe the Banksy-inspired creation was organized by the owner of the cocktail bar who owns the premises.

‘To see a fine lady upon a white horse;’ the second line of the rhyme tells, and a Historic Town Trail leaflet showed a cast bronze sculpture celebrating the verse.

‘With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,’

‘She shall have music wherever she goes.’

All aspects are detailed on the design depicting the Queen of May riding a horse, and includes other meaningful symbols such as the Sun – Banbury’s emblem.

It’s opposite a monument commemorating Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter and the Crowned Prince of Prussia’s marriage. It’s erected on the site of one of Banbury’s three crosses. Plaques mark the spots of the other two, as all originals were destroyed by Puritans in the 1600s.

With so much more to see, it would be a delight to return one day and I fancy the Hobby Horse Festival might be a perfect time at the end of the year.


Until next time,
Sue. X