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Banbury is a market town and civil parish in the district of Cherwellmarker in northern Oxfordshire, England, located on the River Cherwellmarker. It lies northwest of London, southeast of Birminghammarker, south of Coventrymarker and north northwest of the county town of Oxfordmarker. The urban area, including surrounding parishes, had a population of 43,867 at the 2001 census, though this figure has increased in recent years.Other nearby towns and cities include Bicestermarker to the south southeast, Milton Keynesmarker and Northamptonmarker to the east, and north of Banbury, the towns of Stratford-Upon-Avonmarker, Warwickmarker, Royal Leamington Spamarker, Kenilworthmarker, Coventry, Rugbymarker and Daventrymarker span from east to west. Banbury's Member of Parliament 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 Banburyshiremarker and covers the north half of the Cherwell district and neighbouring areas. As Banbury lies near the Oxfordshire border, "Banburyshire" includes parts of Northamptonshiremarker and Warwickshiremarker.

History

Banbury Town Hall (December 2005).
Banbury from the north-west
During excavations for the building of an office 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.

Banbury developed in the Anglo-Saxon period under Danish influence, starting in the latter half of the fifth century. The name Banbury derives from "Banna", a Saxon chieftain said to have built his stockade there in the sixth century, and "burgh" 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 Grimsburymarker, which was part of Northamptonshire but was incorporated into 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 closely followed the modern 22-mile-long road before running through Banbury's High Street and towards the Fosse Way at Stow-on-the-Woldmarker. Banbury's mediæval prosperity was based on wool.

Banbury Castlemarker was built from 1135 by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and survived into the Civil War, when it was besieged. Due to its proximity to Oxfordmarker, 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 Hillmarker in the back room (which can still be visited) of a local inn, The Reindeer.

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.

Banbury was ravaged by fire in 1628. Although some buildings have survived to the present day, many were destroyed.



The opening of the Oxford Canalmarker from Hawkesbury Junctionmarker to Banbury on 30 March 1778 gave the town a cheap and reliable supply of Warwickshiremarker coal. In 1787 the Oxford Canal was extended southwards, finally opening to Oxford on 1 January 1790.

The first two railways to reach Banbury opened in 1850. Firstly the Buckinghamshire Railway from Bletchleymarker on the London and North Western Railway via Buckinghammarker and Brackleymarker formed a terminus at Merton Streetmarker. Within months the Oxford and Rugby Railway from Oxfordmarker on the Great Western Railway via the Cherwell Valley opened a station at Bridge Streetmarker. The GWR extended the Oxford and Rugby Railway northwards in 1852. In 1900 the Great Central Railway opened a branch line to Banbury from Culworth Junction on the main line.

British Railways closed Merton Street station and the Buckingham - 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 Paddingtonmarker and Birminghammarker via Readingmarker, Oxfordmarker and Leamington Spamarker, and from London Marylebonemarker via High Wycombemarker and Bicestermarker, the fastest non-stop train taking 68 minutes to London Marylebonemarker (and 62 minutes for the return journey).

In 1917 the Oxfordshire Ironstone Railwaymarker opened between an iron ore quarry north of Wroxtonmarker and a junction on the GWR just north of Banbury. It was heavily used during World War II but closed in 1967.

Banbury used to be home to Western Europe's largest cattle market, situated on Merton Street in Grimsburymarker. For many years, 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 town saw rapid expansion during the 1960s as housing was built for the London overspill. Banbury's continued growth was accelerated by the completion of the M40 motorway which gave faster access to London and Birminghammarker.

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.

Transport and infrastructure

The booking hall and main entrance Banbury station, managed by Chiltern Railways.
A Chiltern Railways train runs into Banbury station on a service from Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone.
Due to the building of the M40 motorway, Banbury is now a town with good industry. It is now one of the major commuter towns for London, Oxfordmarker, Solihullmarker and Birminghammarker. The M40 also provides local residents access to the Midlandsmarker and the southeast.

Banbury has rail servicesmarker run by Chiltern Railways to Warwickmarker, Birminghammarker and London Marylebonemarker via the non-electrified Chiltern Main Line running from London Marylebone. It also has services run by First Great Western to Oxfordmarker, Readingmarker and London Paddingtonmarker. Services to other parts of the country are provided by CrossCountry via Birmingham New Streetmarker, to Cardiffmarker, Bristolmarker, Gloucestermarker, Leicestermarker, Stanstedmarker, 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 Oxfordmarker, Chipping Nortonmarker and Brackleymarker.

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.

In 2005 Oxfordshire County Council proposed building a ring road around Banbury, connecting the M40 to the Oxford Road at Bodicotemarker, to ease town centre traffic. However this is not expected to be built until 2016 at the earliest.

Business

Banbury has shops in suburban local centres and in the town centre. There is a market held on Thursdays and Saturdays in the market place, as well as a farmers' market on the first Friday of every month.

Banbury has a shopping centre called the Castle Quay, located in the centre of Banbury. It opened as the Castle Shopping Centre in 1977 before being expanded in the 1990s. It has five entrances; two along the canal, one on Bridge Street and two in the market place. The centre has over 80 stores including well-known names such as Marks & Spencer, Bhs and Debenhams.

Polish and East European immigration

Banbury has one of the UK's lowest unemployment rates, dipping as low as 1% in 2005, 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 Catholic Polish workers has had a revitalising effect on 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 Cross

The 'fine lady' and Banbury Cross
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 Queen Victoria's eldest daughter 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 1911. The cross is fifty-two feet six inches high, and topped by a gilt cross.

The English nursery rhyme "Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross" refers to one of the crosses destroyed by Puritans in 1600. 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.

Local newspapers

Banbury has four local newspapers:

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 Museum

Banbury has a museum in the town centre near Spiceball Parkmarker, 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 Castle Quay.

Education

One of the campuses of Oxford and Cherwell Valley Collegemarker is situated in Banbury. The town also has three secondary schools - North Oxfordshire Academymarker, Banbury Schoolmarker and Blessed George Napier Roman Catholic School and Sports Collegemarker - and a number of primary schoolsmarker.

Geography

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 Hillmarker 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 Cherwellmarker which sweeps through the town, going just east of the town centre with Grimsburymarker being the only estate east of the river.

The town is at the northern extreme of the UK's South East England region, just 2 miles from the Midlandsmarker border.

Religion

Banbury has a diverse range of religions, in particular Christianity and Islam. As a result of this there are several places of worship in Banbury including churches and a mosque located in Grimsbury.

Sport

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.

Twinning

Banbury is twinned with:

References



External links




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