A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 10, Banbury Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.
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Origins and Growth of the Town.
By 1086 Banbury was one of the administrative centres of the Bishop of Lincoln's large north Oxfordshire estate, but in Domesday Book there is no mention of a borough there and the lesser tenants of the estate were villani and homines villae. (fn. 1) The site and extent of the Anglo-Saxon vill may only be guessed at. There was almost certainly an important church although none was mentioned until the late 12th century; (fn. 2) and the original vill may well have had a market, for in 1138–9 the Bishop of Lincoln was able to grant away as much as £5 from the market tolls (fn. 3) and it is unlikely that a market granted to the 'planted' town, even if it existed as early as the 1130s, would have developed so quickly.
There is no reason to suppose that the AngloSaxon church was anywhere but on the site of the medieval parish church and its successor. The considerable distance between the church and the centre of the medieval borough strongly suggests that the church's site was chosen with regard to the original vill: the vill evidently lay close to the junction of north-south and east-west routes, some distance from the important ford on the River Cherwell. The terms in which the later planted town was described (fn. 4) suggest that much of the area between the church and the ford was agricultural land until the 12th century. Certain problematical features—the exclusion from the later borough of the Calthorpe Lane area, which thus made a large inroad into the shape of the borough at that point; the fact that medieval customary holdings in the arable fields around the town were attached to tenements in Calthorpe and Neithrop, and not in Banbury; (fn. 5) and the unlikelihood of a hamlet (Calthorpe) developing in the pre-Conquest period so close to the vill of Banbury—suggest a possibility that Calthorpe Lane represents part of the original vill, later acquiring the name and appearance of a hamlet. Whilst solving some of the topographical problems of Banbury, however, such an explanation leaves unanswered questions, notably the earlier application of the name Calthorpe, which is first recorded in 1279, and is probably a combination of thorp with an Old English element col, meaning charcoal. (fn. 6)
The first recorded development of the vill was the building of the castle by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln (1123–48). (fn. 7) There is no direct evidence that he founded a new borough at the same time, but later evidence points to that conclusion. The first reference to Banbury as a borough is in 1167, although a deed of between 1163 and 1166 confirmed an earlier grant by Alexander of a house in 'free burgage'. (fn. 8) In 1170 and 1172, when accounting for the revenues of the vacant see of Lincoln, the reeves of Banbury were allowed to deduct from the sum traditionally due from them 30s. 'in default of rent from Banbury from the demesne land where the market-place (forum) now is'. (fn. 9) In 1168 the 30s. had been allowed 'for the land of the old borough', which could mean that development of the original borough had already taken place, or could be simply a loose application of the word borough to denote the earlier vill. (fn. 10) In any event it is clear that before 1168 the establishment of a market-place had reduced the area of agricultural demesne, and the allowance of so large a sum suggests that land not only for a market-place but for a sizeable town had been granted out.
A list of the bishop's tenants in 1279, headed 'of the old feoffment' (de vetere feoffamento), probably described all the borough tenements created before 1200, since there is an almost exact correspondence between the total rents due from the 'old feoffment' of 1279 and the rents of burgages listed in a rental of c. 1225, if those created after the time of Hugh of Avalon, Bishop of Lincoln (d. 1200), are excluded. (fn. 11) In 1279 tenants' holdings were described in terms of acre, 192 in all, (fn. 12) which seem to have been the strips, presumably of arable land but not necessarily a statute acre in size, of which the building plots were formed when the town was laid out: the rent due was at the standard rate of 12d. an acre. (fn. 13) There are indications that the earliest house-plots lay to the west of the market-place up to the farther side of the Oxford–Coventry road. (fn. 14)
Thus by 1200 a new borough had been laid out, mainly between the church and the river, the process of creating burgages having begun at least in the time of Bishop Alexander. Alexander is known to have created boroughs elsewhere on his estates, and at Sleaford (Lincs.) he was responsible for the joint foundation of a castle and borough; (fn. 15) there is a strong likelihood that he carried out a similar plan at Banbury. The rental of c. 1225 makes it clear that the foundation was successful and that the original site became cramped. Unlike the list of 1279 the rental does not describe properties in the town in terms of the original acre holdings but lists (omitting the feoffments of named grantors mentioned below) 220½ burgage tenements, which paid from 2d. to 20d. each. (fn. 16) The increase in the number of holdings was in fact greater than from 192 to 220½, since the first figure includes 30 holdings held in free alms that are not included in the second. The increase had occurred by subdivision of the original plots, for it is clear from comparison of the two lists that the burgages represent changes in the 'acres'. (fn. 17) The rental of c. 1225 also described 12½ burgage tenements, two workshops (selde), and 21½ stalls (scamella) granted out by Bishop Hugh of Avalon (1186–1200) (fn. 18) and a further 8 burgage tenements granted by Bishop Hugh of Wells (1213–35). The site of the stalls may be identified with the block of buildings lying between the later High Street and Butcher's Row, and the other properties granted by Hugh of Avalon were probably also in that area. (fn. 19) Thus the town was being extended in the late 12th and early 13th centuries probably by the building up of the southern side and south-west corner of the market-place.
There is no evidence of further subdivision of holdings before 1279 but a planned extension of the borough seems to have taken place probably in the mid 13th century. The name Newland, first recorded in 1285, (fn. 20) applied to the modern Broad Street and is still preserved in the name Newland Road. By 1441 there were 52 tenements there, and their rents show traces of an earlier uniform rent of 6d. a year, (fn. 21) while traditional customs in that part of the town in the early 19th century, suggesting a sense of separate identity, (fn. 22) strengthen the likelihood that Newland was developed as a planned suburb in the fields and the meadows to the south of the marketplace. Properties in Newland carried a low standard rent, and two were described in early deeds as cottages, (fn. 23) suggesting that houses or plots in Newland were smaller than elsewhere in the town. A spring called 'Holewelle' (i.e. spring in a hollow) was in the Newland area, (fn. 24) and by 1321 at the latest a house (manerium) from which Eynsham Abbey administered its Banbury estate. (fn. 25)
A rental of the bishop's property in 1441 listed 297 tenements and 52 other properties in the borough, an increase of from 20 to 25 per cent since c. 1225. The increase is accounted for by the development of Newland and there is no evidence of any further subdivision of plots, or of growth elsewhere, apart from a reference to a croft containing 8 tenements in West Bar Street. (fn. 26) Since the town had not expanded much after the early 13th century, the rental reveals the town's earlier plan. The streets may be identified as Bridge Street, Broad Street (Newland and Colebar), George Street (Frog Lane), High Street (Guler Street and forum ovium), South Bar Street, West Bar Street ('Shokersford'), Horse Fair or the north end of South Bar Street (alta strata), North Bar Street, Church Lane ('Pybyllane'), Cornhill and the north side of the Market Place (Barkhill), and Butchers Row and the west side of the Market Place (Cookrow with Shoprow); Mill Street was also mentioned. (fn. 27) There are earlier references to Bridge Street in 1393, (fn. 28) George Street (Frog Lane) in 1396, (fn. 29) Mill Lane (Mill Street) in 1407, (fn. 30) Church Lane (Paternoster Lane) in 1431, (fn. 31) and North Bar Street and South Bar Street (St. John's Street) in 1431. (fn. 32) The earliest indisputable reference to any part of the modern High Street by that name occurs in 1478. (fn. 33) Its position in relation to other street names in the rental makes it almost certain that the alta strata of 1441 was either the north end of South Bar Street of Horse Fair; (fn. 34) it was probably the altus vicus de Bannebur' mentioned in 1350. (fn. 35) It was evidently so called either because of its breadth or because of its importance as a route through the town. The Market Place seems to have been the centre of the town's trade from the 12th century, and in its vicinity the rows of butchers' stalls and the cattle market and sheep market were to be found: the cattle market (forum bovinum), first mentioned in 1319, (fn. 36) was probably the east end of the Market Place and the sheep market (forum ovium), first mentioned in 1441, (fn. 37) the east end of the modern High Street. Omitted from the 1441 rental was one of the principal streets of the central area, Parsons Street, first recorded as Gropecunt Lane in 1333 but referred to as Parsons Lane in 1410. (fn. 38) Some of the properties there may have been held of the Bishop of Lincoln by the Prior of Chacombe or the Hospital of St. John of Banbury, tenants whose holdings are given block entries in the rental of 1441, not entered under the streets where they lay. Much of Parsons Street, however, probably belonged to the estate of the prebendary of Banbury, (fn. 39) and was therefore not included in the bishop's rental. Apart from the prebendal estate the only other properties in the town not paying rent to the bishop were probably very small, namely the estates held in free alms by Eynsham Abbey and Clattercote Priory, and possibly property held by the Lovel family. (fn. 40) Presumably many of the narrow alleyways leading off the principal streets were medieval in origin, and, as in other towns, were often built to provide access to dwellings erected behind those fronting the street once the available building plots in the centre of the town were full; Softwater Yard and Pepper Alley were probably the result of such development. (fn. 41) The paving of the town's streets was aided in 1328 and 1330 by royal grants of tolls on goods coming into the town for sale. (fn. 42)
About 1540 John Leland declared that there was 'neither any certain token or likelihood, that ever the town was ditched or walled'. (fn. 43) The only evidence of medieval fortification is a reference in 1219 to the town ditch (fossatum ville) (fn. 44) and again in 1608 ('a ditch of ancient time called the town ditch'); (fn. 45) the latter lay west of St. John's Street, but the property concerned in the deed of 1219 probably lay near the mill in the north-east of the town. There are traces of an outer lane linking the sites of the town's gates or bars. (fn. 46) The earliest evidence of the bounds of the borough is the location of the town's four bars, which probably were built at its limits in the early 13th century. North Bar and South Bar are first mentioned in 1268, (fn. 47) and the latter was later also known as Easington Bar (1441, 1510), (fn. 48) St. John's Gate (1393, 1554) (fn. 49) and Oxford Bar (1839); (fn. 50) the bars stood immediately south of the junctions of the Warwick road with North Bar Street and of St. John's Road with South Bar Street respectively. West Bar is first mentioned as such in 1351, (fn. 51) as Shokersford Bar in 1431, and as Shookewell Bar in 1483. (fn. 52) Later the name was Sugarford Bar or Gate. (fn. 53) From the 17th to the 19th century the bar was also known as the Bull Bar, from the name of a near-by inn. (fn. 54) It stood at the junction of the Shades with West Bar Street. An East Bar, mentioned in 1351 and 1355, (fn. 55) may have stood at the bridge over the Cherwell, (fn. 56) but is more likely to have been the Cole Bar of 1441. (fn. 57) Broad Street was called Cole Bar Street (with variants) from the 16th to the 18th century, (fn. 58) so the gate probably stood somewhere between its junctions with George Street and Marlborough Road. Presumably the gates were intended for collection of tolls rather than for defence. All four were apparently standing in Leland's time for he referred to the stone gate at either end of the main street from north to south, and to 'other gates besides these'. (fn. 59) Cole Bar had probably been removed by 1712. South Bar, then a 17th-century structure with a 12-foot arch, was demolished c. 1785, when an obelisk was put up to mark its site. West Bar was demolished soon after 1789, apart from the base of one side of the arch which remained until c. 1812; a carved inscription on it was dated 1631, probably the year when it had been rebuilt. The North Bar, which probably dated from the late 17th century, was demolished c. 1817. (fn. 60)
Although the four gates were probably built at the limits of the town, expansion outside them certainly occurred during the Middle Ages. The grant in 1312 of a house lying between two others 'beside the highway to Easington' (fn. 61) may point to development outside South Bar. Newland certainly lay beyond Cole Bar, while in 1441 11 gardens, a half-acre, a croft, and a second croft containing 8 tenements lay outside West Bar. (fn. 62) There may have been further expansion before 1554, when the borough's first charter defined the boundaries, naming the North Bar and South Bar but not Cole Bar or West Bar; the western limit of the borough was marked by a white cross 'outside Sugarford Gate', (fn. 63) and probably lay 200 yards south-west of West Bar, near the junction of Bear Garden Road with the Broughton Road. (fn. 64) Parts of the boundary were described with great precision in 1608, perhaps because disputes had arisen over them, and although its course cannot be identified throughout, the description could well apply to the boundary as it lay in the 19th century. (fn. 65) The boundary is first fully shown on a map of 1881, but the tithe map drawn in 1852 marks with crosses 37 points along the boundary which may have been points where it was marked on the ground; large white arrows painted on walls and renewed at the beating of the bounds every three years marked the limits of the borough at that time. (fn. 66) In one or two places the crosses on the tithe map do not lie exactly on the boundary shown in 1881, (fn. 67) presumably because alterations had been made when plots were changed or new buildings erected. The changes suggest that detailed adjustment of the boundary may have been made from time to time, but basically the boundary was probably still that of the late Middle Ages, and it is worth noting that the sites of the castle, the Bishop of Lincoln's Mill (Banbury Mill), and the hamlet of Calthorpe (Calthorpe Street) were all excluded from the borough.
The white cross mentioned in 1554 was described in 1606 as 'the great stone called the White Cross'; (fn. 68) probably it was the base or shaft of an ancient cross that had worn away through exposure. Two other medieval crosses are recorded in Banbury. One, known from at least 1548 as the High Cross (fn. 69) and also referred to, in 1558, as the Market Cross, (fn. 70) stood in or beside the Market Place, probably at the southern end of Cornhill. (fn. 71) The earliest indisputable reference to it was by Leland, c. 1540, (fn. 72) but it was probably also the 'stone cross' mentioned in a will of 1478. (fn. 73) It consisted of a tall shaft with a crucifix and other carvings at the top; its base was a stone block at the top of eight steps which surrounded it on all four sides. (fn. 74) The other cross was a stone market cross, roofed with slate, which stood at the junction of Butcher's Row with High Street. (fn. 75) It is first mentioned in the survey of 1441, (fn. 76) and from at least 1549 was known as the Bread Cross, (fn. 77) probably because bakers (as well as butchers) had their stalls there. Both the High Cross and the Bread Cross were demolished in 1600. (fn. 78) There is no evidence that a medieval cross stood in the Horse Fair, but this was probably selected as the site for the cross built in 1859 because Alfred Beesley, writing in 1841, considered that it had been the site of 'the principal Cross at Banbury'. (fn. 79)
The principal buildings in the Middle Ages were the castle and the church: the castle, just outside the borough boundary, was clearly large enough to prevent the expansion of the town on the north side; the church was 'rather like a cathedral than a common parochial church'. (fn. 80) The vicarage-house adjoined the churchyard from at least 1441 (fn. 81) and in the churchyard were houses for chantry priests, probably belonging to the Guild of St. Mary, (fn. 82) and the almshouse mentioned in 1443. (fn. 83) A small chapel of the Holy Trinity, which may have belonged to the Trinitarian friars, was built about 1321 probably in the eastern half of the later High Street. (fn. 84) Another small chapel, of unknown origin, dedicated to St. Sunday (St. Dominic) stood in Church Lane; in 1560 it was ruinous; the name survived in 1650 (when it was said, perhaps in error, to apply to the site of the former rectory-house), (fn. 85) and into the 18th century. (fn. 86) St. Leonard's Hospital for lepers was founded by 1265 and is last mentioned in 1391; (fn. 87) it probably stood at the east end of the bridge over the Cherwell, and its site is commemorated in the name Spital Farm, although none of its buildings survive. The hospital of St. John the Baptist was built by 1225 on the east side of the Oxford road, both its site and dedication suggesting that it was intended to dispense hospitality to travellers. (fn. 88) A distinguished grammar school run in connexion with the hospital from 1501 onwards was probably on the same premises in 1548, but earlier may have been elsewhere in the town. (fn. 89) Although most of the Bishop of Lincoln's courts were held in the castle, a borough portmoot was held in a hall of pleas which in the 15th and 16th centuries comprised a room above some workshops probably not far from the castle and possibly in the Market Place. (fn. 90) Manorial centres in the town were the Abbot of Eynsham's manerium in Newland, chiefly a tithecollection centre, and the prebendal or rectoryhouse, which seems to have been one of a group of buildings, including a tithe barn, in an enclosure east of the churchyard: (fn. 91) neither the rectory-house nor the tithe barn have survived. Just outside the town lay a grange or farm-house at Easington, on the west side of the Oxford road, from which was administered the Bishop of Lincoln's demesne in Calthorpe and Neithrop; (fn. 92) and Calthorpe House, at the centre of a considerable estate, was almost certainly in origin a medieval building. (fn. 93) Through the centre of the town ran the Cuttle Brook, 'the prile of fresh water' described by Leland. (fn. 94) The stream flowed eastwards along the south side of the castle and through the Market Place into the cucking pool; another stream apparently flowed down Parsons Street and into the Cuttle Brook; and a third stream flowed through West Bar, Sheep Street, Scalding Lane, Parson's Meadow Lane, and into the Cherwell. (fn. 95)
The important bridge over the River Cherwell was first recorded in 1294. (fn. 96) In the early 16th century it was called East Bridge, but seems usually to have been called simply Banbury Bridge. (fn. 97) Although some 13th-century stonework survives there is no indication whether there was an earlier bridge or simply a ford. By the 18th century the bridge was c. 258 feet long and contained seven pointed arches, three over the main stream, two over the mill stream, and between the streams two small arches which were usually dry; a level causeway connected the arches and on the north side the cutwaters were carried up to parapet-level to provide recesses for the safety of pedestrians. (fn. 98) About 1540 the bridge was said to have only four arches. (fn. 99) When the canal was built a 'disgraceful brick arch' (fn. 100) raised the height of the bridge at the town end, and the old bridge was finally destroyed when the building of the railway led to the diversion of the main stream of the river, the erection of a new bridge, and the construction of an embankment in which some of the old arches were apparently buried. (fn. 101) On the old bridge in 1694 and 1730 (fn. 102) was an elaborately decorated post, marking the county boundary and probably 17th-century in origin. Bequests for the bridge's repair occur from 1505 onwards. (fn. 103) In the 16th century there was a bridge hermit who lived probably at the Northamptonshire end, 'at the bridge foot'. (fn. 104)
There is no evidence that the town expanded in the 16th century. Internally there were minor changes when some of the important medieval buildings, particularly the Trinity chapel and the hospital of St. John, were closed or used for other purposes, (fn. 105) but the incorporation of the borough probably had little immediate effect on the town's topography. No new town hall appears to have been built in the 1550s, although small payments were made for various work about 'our hall', which was sometimes referred to as 'the court hall'; (fn. 106) probably the hall of pleas mentioned above was taken over by the corporation. A new town hall, stone-built and of three bays, was built in Cornhill probably c. 1590. (fn. 107) Its successor was built of timber and plaster on an island site in the Market Place in the 17th century, probably following a bequest of £100 by William Taylor in 1633 for the building of a market-house or public hall in Banbury; (fn. 108) it was in serious disrepair by 1800 and a new brickbuilt town hall of two stories, of which the lower was open, was built on the same site; (fn. 109) the first floor served as a council chamber. The hipped roof was surmounted by a cupola. The building was removed in 1860 from the Market Place and reerected as a warehouse at Old Town Hall Wharf on the west bank of the canal. (fn. 110) The Gothic town hall in Bridge Street, designed by Edward Bruton of Oxford, and built by Chesterman of Abingdon, was opened in 1854. The move from the Market Place was urged because of congestion and the opportunity that the new building would present of improving the Bridge Street site, prominent, but covered in old and dilapidated buildings. The town hall is of Oolitic limestone, and has a symmetrical façade to Bridge Street, with a centrally placed entrance porch surmounted by a staircase tower originally open at the top for ventilation. The clock and finial were not included in the original design. Inside, the accommodation on the first floor comprised a hall 60 ft. by 40 ft., with a wooden barrel roof; it was to seat 600 people and to serve additionally as a magistrates' court. Below were a magistrates' room, police room and cells, witnesses' room, and an office for the Board of Health. Additions were built at the south-west in 1891 to contain a Council Chamber and offices. Since 1930 the municipal offices and council chamber have been in part of the former Mechanics' Institute in Marlborough Road. (fn. 111)
Other public buildings provided by the corporation in the late 16th and early 17th century included a Leather Hall, a Wool Hall, and a house of correction; (fn. 112) there was a workhouse in Scalding Lane from 1643, replaced in 1707 by a workhouse on the east side of South Bar. (fn. 113) The town gaol, which from 1705 until 1817 shared a building with the Blue Coat school, stood in the Market Place and may be identified with the former Wool Hall. (fn. 114)
The 17th century saw the destruction by fire and siege of a great deal of the earlier town. The fire of 1628 was said to have destroyed about a third of the town, amounting to 103 dwellings and 660 bays of other buildings (including 20 malt-kilns). (fn. 115) William Whately, living in the Vicarage, 'only felt the wind of the stroke, as it were, and not the smart of it'. (fn. 116) Beesley, writing in 1841, was persuaded by the character of surviving houses that the southern part of the town from West Street to George Street and Broad Street was chiefly affected, (fn. 117) and certainly surviving early buildings lie mostly north of the line running through West Bar Street and Bridge Street. Further demolition occurred during the Civil War. During the first siege of the castle, in 1644, some 30 houses near the castle were burnt, presumably because they were giving cover to the besiegers' operations, (fn. 118) and after the siege further properties in and near the Market Place were pulled down to make way for an extension of the castle fortifications. (fn. 119) Destruction occurred as the result not only of military operations but also, probably, of looting and burning by a royalist garrison which had little support in, or respect for, the town. (fn. 120) In 1643, moreover, there was a great fire in which according to a contemporary (but probably exaggerated) report 'near upon 100 dwelling houses (some say 200) were burnt down to the ground'; (fn. 121) and in 1644 Parliamentary troops at Cropredy Bridge 'spied that side of Banbury next to us on fire'. (fn. 122) In both cases Parliamentary sources alleged that the fires were started by the garrison.
In 1647 it was said, perhaps with exaggeration, that the town had 'scarce the one half standing to gaze on the ruins of the other'. (fn. 123) Of 43 tenements listed in a survey of Crown property in the borough in 1653, 10 were described as plots either still vacant or only partly rebuilt after being burned in the war; probably others were by this time wholly rebuilt, so were not specially mentioned in the survey. Of the 10 mentioned 3 were in North Bar Street, 2 in Calthorpe Lane (later Calthorpe Street), and 5 in the Beast Market (i.e. the east end of the Market Place). (fn. 124) Parliament aided the reconstruction of Banbury by allocating for the purpose £300 of timber sequestered from a royalist and subsequently, in 1648, the stone and timber from the demolition of the castle. (fn. 125) After the war, therefore, a great deal of rebuilding was carried out and most of the surviving dated buildings are of the late 1640s and early 1650s. (fn. 126) There is no evidence for any change in building plots or street alignment, (fn. 127) although, if the destruction of Banbury was as extensive as it seems, such changes may have taken place. One major topographical change was the pulling down of the castle, a task so thoroughly executed that by 1685 the site had been converted into gardens and closes and there were only two small buildings, formerly within the castle, and a row of 13 houses on the north side of what later became Factory Street. (fn. 128) Although there is no direct evidence of expansion of the town beyond the limits reached by 1441 it is noticeable that from the mid 17th century the inhabitants of Neithrop and Calthorpe were no longer predominantly agriculturists; artisans and others were starting to settle there, which may be symptomatic of overcrowding in the borough itself. (fn. 129)
The town expanded little in the 18th century. A number of commercial and industrial buildings were erected close to the town centre after the coming of the canal. (fn. 130) Public building activity included the removal of the three surviving stone bars or gates, the destruction and rebuilding of the parish church, and the erection of a new town hall at the turn of the century. (fn. 131) In 1785 Banbury was described as 'a dirty, ill-built town'. (fn. 132) The increase in population and the 'industrialization' of Banbury from the late 18th century onwards led to the intense building activity which has given the town its characteristic appearance. It should be noted, however, that the process was gradual and was already far advanced before the coming of the railway and the development of agricultural implement-making: the Britannia and Cherwell works were built in a part of the town already in the course of development, and did not in themselves start its expansion. The areas where new houses were built within the borough in the early 19th century were probably near the sites of the North and South Bars, along West Bar Street, in the Castle Street area, and at the north end of Broad Street. By 1841 it was claimed that there was no land unbuilt on within the borough. (fn. 133) To the south of the borough, following the sale of the Calthorpe estate in 1833, Dashwood Road, St. John's Road, Calthorpe Road, and the east side of the Oxford road were laid out and built up with some 40 middle-class houses. (fn. 134) West of South Bar Street the 80 smaller terraced houses which lay between Crouch Street, Bear Garden Road, Monument Street, and New Road in 1881 (fn. 135) were probably built c. 1839 when Crouch Street was made, (fn. 136) while on the Broughton road the terraces on the north side of Constitution Hill had been built by 1851. (fn. 137) Around Neithrop village there seems to have been a good deal of expansion before 1850. (fn. 138) Already by 1833 Neithrop had been described as 'a populous and disorderly suburb' (fn. 139) and by 1850 it was clearly a predominantly working-class area: some 1,500 of the 1,700 inhabitants were described as poor by the vicar, William Wilson, and in its amenities (shops and public-houses) Neithrop was relatively badly provided for. (fn. 140)
Further expansion in Neithrop occurred after 1850; thus St. Paul's Terrace and the houses on the west side of Paradise Road were among several small terraces that had been built in Neithrop village before 1881, besides some 50 houses in the newly laid out Park Road and Queen Street. (fn. 141) Another 50 houses were built between 1852 and 1881 along the borough's northern boundary, when Back Lane was converted into Castle Street West, and Castle Street East was laid out. (fn. 142) The town's principal expansion in the mid 19th century was to the east. In the area known as Cherwell between Broad Street and the canal, lying partly within and partly outside the borough, development began along the canal; Upper and Lower Cherwell Streets and Windsor Street had been built before 1851, (fn. 143) and there followed building between Windsor Street and Broad Street so that by 1881 there were some 350 modern houses in the whole area. (fn. 144) A slightly later development still further east in Grimsbury was of larger houses. There had been some suburban development there by the early 19th century. 'A lot of cottages called Waterloo' which apparently lay just east of Banbury Bridge to the north of the road, housed 'a lot of disreputable inhabitants, lodginghouses and otherwise, of the lowest character'. (fn. 145) In 1841 Waterloo was described as 'the modern and most populous part of Grimsbury'. (fn. 146) The principal 19th-century building development within Grimsbury occurred between 1852 and 1881, when some 500 houses were built, partly south of the Middleton road in Causeway, Merton Street, and Duke Street, but mostly to the north between the Middleton road and North Street. (fn. 147) When meadows and a race-course at Grimsbury were sold to the Great Western Railway, the same owner sold his land to the north of the Middleton road to the Banbury Freehold Land Society, which was backed by Cobb's Bank; many of the early houses built were middle-class in character, but development was slow and some plots were never built upon. (fn. 148)
New public buildings built in the 19th century, besides the churches, chapels, and schools noticed elsewhere, included the Union workhouse in Neithrop (1835), the Mechanics' Institute in Church Passage (1836), the town hall (1854), two corn exchanges (1857), the cross in the Horse Fair (1859), the Horton Hospital (1869–72), the Temperance Hall (1875), and the Mechanics' Institute in Marlborough Road (1884). (fn. 149) Land for the Union workhouse was purchased in Neithrop from a member of the Board of Guardians (at what appears to have been an inflated price) and Sampson Kempthorne, (fn. 150) whose specimen designs had been approved by the Poor Law Commissioners and circulated with their reports, was summoned by the Banbury Guardians to prepare a design for them and to supervise the works. The contractors were Danby and Taylor of Banbury. The workhouse was designed on the modified panopticon principle which made for ease of supervision of the inmates and for clarity of 'classification' of the different types of pauper by age and sex—regarded by the Commissioners as essential. (fn. 151) It is to the credit of the Banbury Guardians that they approved plans slightly more spacious than those originally proposed by Kempthorne. Additions were made at the end of the 19th century to designs by W. E. Mills of Banbury. The Cornhill Corn Exchange was designed by W. Hill of Leeds (fn. 152) and built by Kimberley of Banbury, (fn. 153) with a separate contract with Thorpe and Ponder for stone carving. (fn. 154) The facade is classical with an entrance through a shallow portico formed of a giant order of four sets of coupled Corinthian pilasters beneath a heavy entablature and pediment. This was originally surmounted by a standing figure of Ceres, now lost. The hall inside is 85 ft.×65 ft., larger than any but the most optimistic of the exchange's promoters could have thought necessary, so perhaps it scarcely mattered that when open for business the roof was only half on. (fn. 155) The Central Corn Exchange was also built in 1857, though the front to the Market Place is later than the main hall. The hall is of brick, with appropriate decoration in pressed brick, the detail loosely derived from 17th-century France. The building has been attributed to James Murray of Coventry. (fn. 156) The site chosen was obscured until 1860 by the old town hall, which no doubt led to the delay in completing the facade. There was considerable (and notorious) rivalry between the two exchanges, which were promoted by the Banbury Corn Exchange Co. Ltd., and by the Central Corn Exchange for Banbury Co. Ltd., respectively. (fn. 157) Neither was complete when opened on the same day, 3 September 1857, when they were recorded in the national press as 'utterly unfit for business'. (fn. 158) The Cornhill Corn Exchange, probably for political reasons, never functioned effectively as such and the Central Exchange did not succeed particularly well. (fn. 159) The Central Exchange became subsequently the Palace Cinema and later a shopping arcade; the Cornhill became the Vine Tavern.
The surviving Banbury Cross results from the wish of a number of citizens to commemorate the marriage of the Princess Royal with the Crown Prince of Prussia. It is of Eleanor Cross type, with niches for figures beneath a tall finial. It has six sides, and steps forming a small plinth. It was designed in competition by J. Gibbs of Oxford, and the competing designs were exhibited locally. Contractors were Cowley of Oxford. Statues of Queen Victoria, Edward VII, and George V designed to celebrate the coronation of 1911 were not put in place until late in 1914. They were carved by Boulton & Sons of Cheltenham, with Sir T. G. Jackson acting as consultant. (fn. 160)
Banbury's relative economic stagnation from the 1870s until the 1920s (fn. 161) slowed down the rate of expansion. The council in that period built houses in King's Road and on the Easington estate. (fn. 162) Between 1881 and 1930 other working-class houses were built at the south end of Britannia Road and the area to the east, and also in Old Grimsbury Road and Gibbs Road in Grimsbury, and rather larger houses were built in the Marlborough Road area and in Bath Road, Kings Road, Park Road, and Queen Street in Neithrop. (fn. 163) The increased population between 1931 and 1949 was accommodated by the expansion of the town in three main areas, in each of which houses were built both by the corporation and by private companies. The three areas were between the Oxford and Bloxham roads, where about 500 houses were built before 1939 to form the suburb of Easington; in the area of the older village and suburb of Neithrop, where before 1939 some 500 houses were built both around the earlier houses and further west in new streets on either side of the Warwick road, a development which was extended to the south-west after 1945; and around the 19th-century suburb of Grimsbury, where about 300 houses were built after 1945 in the areas of Grimsbury Square, Fergusson Road, Howard Street, School View, and Edward Street. (fn. 164) Since that date the increasing industrialization of the town has led to a great enlargement of the builtup area, the chief features being extension in the north-west, north of the Warwick road, westwards between the Warwick and Bloxham roads, and in the south at Easington and on the west bank of the canal. Industrial building has continued on both sides of the Southam road, and in the late 1950s the council acquired 86 a. of land on the west side of the road for an Industrial Estate. Major changes in the central area, apart from the building of many large shops, included the provision of a bus station, and a large car-park north of Castle Street. In 1969 proposals for the redevelopment of the central area were in hand. (fn. 165)
The population of the town was roughly 1,300 in the early 13th century and 1,600 in 1441. (fn. 166) There is no direct evidence of depopulation in the plagues of the 14th century but for the poll-tax of 1377–80 only 523 inhabitants over 14 years old were assessed: (fn. 167) even allowing for omissions there seems to have been a considerable reduction. Moreover, in 1441 as many as 26 stalls and 9 workshops were said to be vacant, and there is evidence of a decline in the bishop's rents at some period in the past, perhaps after the Black Death. (fn. 168) In 1545 there were said to be 1,400 communicants in the whole parish. (fn. 169) Accounts of fire damage in 1628 imply that there were about 300 houses in the town before the fire. (fn. 170) In 1665 138 people were assessed for tax on 456 hearths, 20 were discharged tax on 35 hearths on grounds of poverty, and 4 owners of presumably unoccupied property were assessed on 23 hearths. (fn. 171) The population probably began to increase in the decades before 1800, and in 1801 there were 2,755 inhabitants in the borough, and only 1,055 in the Oxfordshire hamlets. (fn. 172) In the borough there was a 3 per cent rise before 1811 and a 17 per cent rise in the following decade bringing the total population to 3,396. Over the next 50 years the population of the entire parish rose steadily, in exact proportion to the rise of population in the whole of England and Wales, from 5,673 in 1821 to 11,725 in 1871. (fn. 173) At first in that period the rise in population was shared by both the borough and the hamlets, but in the decade 1831–41 the population in the Oxfordshire hamlets increased by 838 and in the borough by only nine. In the following decade the population of the hamlets surpassed that of the borough, and thereafter the gap widened. The largest increase (20 per cent) in the population of the parish came in the decade 1841–51, before the establishment of the railway or the large factories. (fn. 174) Some part of the increase before 1851 was due to immigration, for in Neithrop in 1851 41 per cent were born outside the parish but in the Banbury region, and 13 per cent came from further afield. (fn. 175)
Between 1871 and 1921 the population rose by only 12 per cent, very much less than the national average, doubtless because of the agricultural depression. Between 1911 and 1921 the population decreased slightly, and it is clear that the town, instead of acting as an urban centre to attract rural immigrants, had become a place from which people emigrated to areas less dependent on an agricultural economy. There was insufficient industrial expansion to attract very much immigration even from the surrounding countryside. The revival of the market and the arrival in the town of large-scale industry independent of agriculture brought immediate results. From 1921 to 1931 (the year when the construction of the aluminium factory began) the town's population rose only by 4 per cent, but from 1931 to 1951 it rose from 13,953 to 18,916, an increase of 36 per cent which was well above the national average. (fn. 176) The majority of the immigrants, unlike those who had come into Banbury before the First World War, came from outside the Banbury region, many from London and the Home Counties. After 1935 immigration increased, even fewer came from the surrounding area, many came from the industrial Midlands, while in the late 1930s large-scale resettlement from depressed areas, organized by the Ministry of Labour and other bodies, accounted for particularly heavy immigration from the north and north-east of England. (fn. 177) Since 1950 immigration into the town has continued, with the full support of the borough council: an agreement was made, for instance, with the Greater London Council whereby the borough council would provide some 2,000 homes for London families coming into the area to find work, and a similar arrangement was made with Birmingham City Council at the time of the move to Banbury from Birmingham of Alfred Bird & Sons Ltd. In 1969 the population was 28,000, having increased from 19,430 in 1957, and the council had plans for a further increase to 40,000. (fn. 178)
The hamlet of Neithrop lay on the Lower Lias clay c. ⅓ mile north-west of Banbury church, at a height of c. 350 ft. (fn. 179) It was first mentioned in 1224; most of the early forms of the place-name suggest a combination of thorp with nether, although the earliest form suggests heath. (fn. 180) Neithrop was probably always the most populous of Banbury's Oxfordshire hamlets, but the evidence is slight because from the 14th century Neithrop and Calthorpe were usually treated as a single unit for taxation purposes, and from the mid 16th century Neithrop township included the other hamlets. Calthorpe, too, lay very close to the borough boundary, about ¼ mile south of Banbury church, on the Lower Lias and Middle Lias clay between the 325 ft. and 350 ft. contours. (fn. 181) Whether or not the Calthorpe hamlet recorded from 1279 onwards was the successor of an Anglo-Saxon hamlet of that name is discussed above. (fn. 182) Close to Calthorpe, on the hill to the south of the borough, lay Easington, which may never have been a settlement until it became the administrative centre of the Bishop of Lincoln's demesne in the combined fields of Neithrop and Calthorpe. (fn. 183) The place-name, first recorded in 1279, is a combination of the personal name Esa with dun or denu (hill or valley). (fn. 184)
In 1327 27 people in Neithrop and Calthorpe were assessed for the subsidy, and in 1377 98 people were assessed for the poll-tax. (fn. 185) In 1524 20 people from Neithrop and 8 from Calthorpe were assessed. (fn. 186) Presumably most of the 24 people assessed on 98 hearths in the Oxfordshire hamlets in 1665 (fn. 187) lived in Neithrop and Calthorpe, since Wickham and Hardwick were shrunk settlements. (fn. 188) By that date Calthorpe House stood in sizeable inclosed grounds, (fn. 189) and the other houses in the hamlet were probably physically, though not technically, absorbed in the town. Neithrop retained its identity longer, and even in the 19th century, when it became part of the rapidly expanding town, (fn. 190) it remained notoriously distinct in character. (fn. 191)
The earlier, stone-built cottages of Neithrop are a forlorn little group swamped by the red-brick development of the early 19th century. Originally they were all, except for Orchard House, merely good-quality, two-storied buildings in the regional vernacular style of the 17th century, lacking the dormer gables and other elaborations which characterise the town houses and better-class farm-houses. No. 16 Bath Road (dated 1626 and with the initials R: IM), and Nos. 1–5, 12A, and 18–19 Boxhedge Lane are basically of this type, although some have been greatly altered. No. 3 Boxhedge Lane differs from the rest in having a sizeable rear wing, while No. 2 has a two-light traceried window of the 15th century, apparently unrelated to any other feature of the building. Orchard House, a large, formerly free-standing building in Foundry Square, must have been of at least superior farm-house status. It has had the Vulcan Foundry built on to one side of it in the 19th century, and has been considerably altered, both internally and externally, but much of its original form remains. It is of two stories, with a cellar (original) below the east end and a roof-garret lit by dormer gables. The plan is L-shaped, with three rooms to a floor, and a square stair turret in the angle of the L. The open-well staircase is its most remarkable feature, with heavy, angularly carved balusters, suggesting a late-16thor early-17th-century date. (fn. 192)
The hamlet of Wickham presumably lay within the later Wickham Park, c. 2 miles south of Banbury church, on Middle Lias clay and on the marlstone rock bed, at a height of c. 400 ft. To the south the ground falls away to the Sor Brook, to the north it rises towards Crouch Hill and Easington. (fn. 193) The place-name, first mentioned in 1086, is a combination of ham and the Old English wic, meaning village or dairy farm. (fn. 194) In 1279 there were 8 tenants of the Wykeham family there, and in 1327 8 people were assessed for the twentieth. (fn. 195) For the poll-tax of 1377 24 adults were assessed, but in 1524 only 3 were assessed for the subsidy. (fn. 196) The date of or reason for the depopulation of the hamlet is not known, but it may have been linked to the creation of the park which in the 17th century amounted to some 80 a. around the manor-house. (fn. 197) Many of the Wickham fields were still farmed as arable, but the tenants, except for those at the manor-house and Wickham Mill, lived elsewhere. By the mid 18th century the hamlet was inclosed and there were several isolated farm-houses. (fn. 198)
Hardwick lay close to the surviving manor-house, Hardwick Farm, (fn. 199) about 1½ miles north of Banbury church, at c. 375 ft. on the southern slope of Hardwick Hill; it stood at a junction between the Lower and Middle Lias clays in an area plentifully supplied with springs. (fn. 200) The place-name, first mentioned in 1224, derives from Old English heordewic, implying that it was a sheep farm or shepherd's croft. (fn. 201) Five people were assessed for the twentieth of 1327, and as many as 35 for the poll-tax of 1377–81. (fn. 202) The hamlet was depopulated at the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century when William Cope, who leased the manor from 1496 until his death in 1513, turned the township lands into a single enclosed farm. (fn. 203) In 1524 only one man was assessed at more than the landless labourer's rate of 4d., and 7 were assessed at 4d. (fn. 204) There are visible remains of the medieval hamlet. (fn. 205)