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, p. 18. Buildings, p. 29. Castle, p. 39. Manors and other Estates, p. 42. Economic History, p. 49. Local Government, p. 71. Parliamentary Representation, p. 89. Churches, p. 95. Roman Catholicism, p. 107. Protestant Nonconformity, p. 108. Education, p. 120. Charities for the Poor, p. 124.
The borough of Banbury lies 22 miles north of Oxford on the River Cherwell, close to the meeting point of three counties, and the centre of an area which from its considerable homogeneity in geology, farming, and building styles, and through its dependence on Banbury in the past and the present, deserves the title of the Banbury region. The town was the centre of a large ancient parish, the head of a hundred, the administrative centre of a large estate belonging to the bishops of Lincoln, from the 12th to the 16th century a small seigneurial borough, and from 1554 until 1885 a parliamentary borough; in 1554 it was incorporated and since 1889 has held the status of a non-county borough. (fn. 1)
The ancient parish of Banbury covered 4,634 a., of which 3,408 a. lay in Oxfordshire and 1,226 a. in Northamptonshire. (fn. 2) The county boundary followed the main stream of the River Cherwell until 1889, when the Northamptonshire portion of the parish was taken into the administrative borough of Banbury and became part of Oxfordshire. (fn. 3) Until that date the Northamptonshire hamlets of Grimsbury and Nethercote had little to do with Banbury although they were dependent on the parish church and from 1832 formed part of the Banbury parliamentary constituency: (fn. 4) the hamlets were in Sutton hundred (Northants.), (fn. 5) and were often dealt with in matters of county administration together with Warkworth, (fn. 6) and were considered part of Warkworth (Northants.) after local government functions began to devolve on the parish in the 16th century. (fn. 7)
The account that follows is concerned with the Oxfordshire portion of the parish, which was bounded on the east by the River Cherwell, on the south by the Sor Brook, and in the north-west partly by Hanwell Brook and the ancient Banbury-Southam road; on the west side the boundary zig-zagged along the hedges of post-inclosure fields following few natural features, while on the north the boundary with Bourton also had an artificial look. (fn. 8) Within those boundaries were the borough (81 a.) and the hamlets of Hardwick (c. 500 a.), Wickham (c. 1,000 a.), and Neithrop and Calthorpe (c. 1,825 a.). (fn. 9) Wickham and Hardwick were shrunk settlements before the end of the Middle Ages, (fn. 10) and Calthorpe had little separate identity as it adjoined the built-up area of the town. From 1544 the tax assessments for the hamlets were entered in a single list, (fn. 11) and after the 17th century Neithrop formed a township covering all the Oxfordshire parish except the borough. (fn. 12) The borough boundaries probably remained largely unchanged from the Middle Ages until 1889 when they were extended to take in not only Neithrop township but the whole ancient parish. (fn. 13) In 1932 the area of the borough was increased to 5,051 a. by the addition of three areas (c. 100 a. beside the Southam road taken from Bourton, c. 50 a. beside the Warwick road taken from Drayton, and c. 300 a. on either side of the Oxford road taken from Bodicote); (fn. 14) and in 1968 a further 49 a. were taken into the borough on the west side in order to facilitate building development. (fn. 15)
The geology of the parish is uncomplicated, comprising mostly lias clay, with a narrow strip of alluvium along the River Cherwell. Banbury town lies on low ground close to the river on beds of Middle Lias limestone, while Hardwick in the north of the parish lies on Lower Lias, and Crouch Hill, the highest point in the parish (556 ft.), a distinctive landmark, is on the Upper Lias. (fn. 16) As elsewhere in north Oxfordshire the soil is chiefly red ironstone, and where deep is some of the best in the county for corn growing; the clays of the Lower and Upper Lias are best suited to grass. The parish was abundantly supplied with water not only from the Cherwell and tributary streams but from numerous springs and wells. (fn. 17) A well on the west side of the town, known as St. Stephen's Well, may have been regarded as a holy well. (fn. 18)
The town grew up at the junction of important routes. (fn. 19) It lay at a point where easy routes crossed the limestone ridge dividing the Thames Basin from the Midland Plain. The ridge itself formed an eastwest route of great antiquity known as the Jurassic Way, and a prehistoric origin has been suggested for Banbury Lane, which followed the ridge from Northampton to Banbury, crossed the Cherwell there, and continued south-westwards to the Cotswolds. (fn. 20) Probably the position of a ford later dictated the siting of the town. No major Roman roads came close to the parish, and the traditional route for carrying salt from Droitwich to Princes Risborough passed just to the south of the town, crossing the Cherwell probably between Adderbury and Aynho (Northants.); (fn. 21) the route was probably in use by the time of Domesday Book and presumably existed before the town was founded.
Traces of prehistoric and Roman settlement have been found within the bounds of the parish, notably the remains of a substantial Roman building at Wickham Park, and a sub-Roman occupation site close to the Broughton road. (fn. 22) Crouch Hill bears a Celtic name, (fn. 23) providing a link between the early English settlers and inhabitants from a remoter past. The first English settlers probably reached the northern part of the county during the 5th century, and the name Banbury suggests a settlement early in the Anglo-Saxon period: it has been usually taken to mean the burh (fortification, stockaded enclosure, earthwork) of Ban(n)a, a personal name otherwise recorded only in Banningham (Norfolk). (fn. 24) Just across the river was Grimsbury, a name containing a pseudonym of the god Woden, (fn. 25) which suggests that the settlement was earlier than the conversion of the Banbury area to Christianity. The conversion of the area probably followed soon after Birinus's mission to Wessex in 634 and the foundation of his see at Dorchester-on-Thames. (fn. 26) The Bishop of Dorchester at an unknown date acquired a large estate in north Oxfordshire, including all the land later forming Banbury hundred, (fn. 27) and when in 1072 the see was moved from Dorchester to Lincoln Banbury became the property of the bishops of Lincoln; by 1086 Banbury was one of the administrative centres of the bishops' estate. (fn. 28) The fact that the parish boundary extended beyond this ancient episcopal estate and also beyond the county boundary, which followed a natural frontier, suggests that at an early date Banbury became an ecclesiastical centre for a wide area, and probably contained an ancient minster church.
The connexion with the bishops of Lincoln dominated the history of the parish in the Middle Ages: it was a bishop, Alexander (1123–48), who built a castle there and probably created a borough, laying out plots around a market-place close to the original vill of Banbury. (fn. 29) The bishop may have intended to administer all his Oxfordshire estates from Banbury castle, since in 1279 the hundred and manor of Thame and the fee of Dorchester were held as of the barony of Banbury. (fn. 30) The bishops made frequent use of the castle as a residence, and were also responsible for creating one of the other chief estates in medieval Banbury, that attached to the Banbury prebend, which comprised not only about a quarter of the town's property, but also the great tithes and the advowson of the church. Under the sway of Lincoln the 'planted' town prospered, the plots were taken up, the markets and fairs developed, trading connexions were established with distant places, and in the 13th century the town's ale and cloth began to acquire a reputation. Even on the basis of a poll-tax assessment of 1377–81, which may well reflect considerable losses from plagues, Banbury with 523 assessed adults was much larger than other planted towns in the county, Henley and Thame. (fn. 31) Comparisons based on the tax assessment of 1334, when Banbury was assessed at 355s. 6d., place Banbury high up the ladder of successful planted towns, slightly better off than another of the Bishop of Lincoln's foundations, New Sleaford (Lincs.), and as high as Pontefract (Yorks. W. R.), which on the basis of this assessment ranked 35th of all English towns. (fn. 32)
On the other hand there is no evidence that the town expanded after the establishment of a suburb at Newland in the mid 13th century. The plagues of the 14th century may have been partly responsible: certainly there is evidence that rents were reduced at some point before 1441 presumably because of a decline in the town's prosperity. (fn. 33) Although the average rent paid by the bishop's tenants in 1441 was still lower than in the early 13th century the average number of holdings for each tenant was 4.1 compared with 1.4, and the vast majority of the tenements were in the hands of a class of mesne landlords or rentiers; thus the actual occupiers of houses in 1441 probably paid considerably higher rents than their predecessors 200 years earlier. Religious bodies were prominent among the rentiers, the Prior of St. John's Hospital holding 32 tenements (compared with only 11 burgages in the early 13th century), the recently established chantry of the Virgin Mary holding 20 tenements, and the Prior of Chacombe holding seven; seven individuals held from 10 to 22 tenements each and a further three held from five to nine. (fn. 34) It was not necessarily the most enterprising townsmen who became landlords, since of a group of seven Banbury traders recorded in pleas of debt in the period 1425–43 (fn. 35) only John Danvers appeared in the rental of 1441.
The town's prosperity was probably recovering in the 15th century: Banbury cheeses, for which the town was noted until the 18th century, were first mentioned in 1430, (fn. 36) and, more important, Banbury was becoming a collecting centre for the growing wool trade of the south Midlands. The town, however, remained essentially a local market serving a prosperous farming region, with some contact with a wider world through its trade and its role as the centre of an important episcopal estate. It contained a large prebendal church and an outstanding school, St. John's Hospital School, which became famous at the end of the 15th century under John Stanbridge, whose method of teaching grammar was chosen as a model by Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, when he founded Manchester Grammar School in 1515. (fn. 37)
At some time between 1197 and 1205 the Bishop of Bangor and the abbots of Buildwas, Combermere, and Haughmond met in Banbury, presumably under the aegis of the Bishop of Lincoln, to determine a suit concerning Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Prince of North Wales. (fn. 38) The town was presumably disturbed by events in 1312 when Piers Gaveston was arrested at Deddington, 6 miles away, but the only records of disorders at Banbury in the 14th century concern purely local issues, such as the breaking of the bishop's imparked lands in 1333 and a tumult at Banbury fair the following year. (fn. 39) In 1387 Banbury was among the towns occupied by the lords appellant to check the advance of Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland, before the confrontation at Radcot Bridge. (fn. 40) Banbury men were concerned in the Lollard uprising of 1413, (fn. 41) and in 1469 the town was more closely involved in the battle fought at Danes Moor in Edgcott (Northants.), 6 miles to the north-east. There the Lancastrian insurrection led by 'Robin of Redesdale' defeated the army led by the Earl of Pembroke; the Yorkist defeat was at least partly due to the withdrawal before the battle of the army led by the Earl of Devon, who had quarrelled with Pembroke over their troops' quarters in Banbury. It is scarcely surprising that difficulties should have arisen, as according to the lowest contemporary estimate Pembroke had 7–8,000 men, Devon 4–5,000. (fn. 42) The town was already of some importance as a meeting of routes; it was used as a gathering point for troops by the Duke of Clarence in 1471 and by Lord Lovel in 1483. (fn. 43)
The mid 16th century saw the end of the Bishop of Lincoln's power in the parish, and the transference of that power eventually to the Crown. Some important institutions, the prebend, the guild of St. Mary, the chapel of the Holy Trinity, and the hospital of St. John were also abolished. In 1554 Queen Mary granted the town a charter and a common council thenceforth ruled the borough. In 1608 the borough's privileges were considerably extended by a second charter; the town's charters were surrendered in 1683 and a new one granted, which extended the borough to cover the whole parish. The former charters were restored in 1688 and in 1718 were confirmed with slight changes. In the 16th and 17th centuries the common council was active and dominant in every aspect of the town's life, but later became chiefly an instrument, manipulated by powerful patrons, for electing a Member of Parliament.
From the 16th century until the middle of the 19th century Banbury remained a small market town, of which the reputation and notoriety grew out of all proportion to the town's size or economic significance. Directly or indirectly Banbury's position as a communications centre has been one reason for the many references to the town in literary works. References to its ale, its cake, its cheese, and its markets are discussed elsewhere. The earliest literary allusions to Banbury are obscure. William Langland's Piers the Plowman, in the final version (the C-text of 1392), includes 'Bette the budele of banneburies sokne' among rogues who witness a wrongful charter; in earlier versions the beadle was described instead as of Buckinghamshire, a county noted for thieves. (fn. 44) The allusion may be to some recent and now unknown incident or even to a personal quarrel of the author, who is believed to have come from Shipton-under-Wychwood, close to an outlying part of Banbury hundred. The town's reputation for untruth underlies later sayings: the apparently proverbial phrase 'Banbury glosses' was used in 1530 and 1571 to mean twistings of the truth, (fn. 45) and may be the origin of later allusions to a tall story as 'a Banbury story'; (fn. 46) another saying, recorded in 1660, may be related to the above but more likely originated in a specific incident: 'as wise as the mayor of Banbury, who would prove that Henry III was before Henry II'; (fn. 47) a further obscure proverb, recorded in 1639, was 'he has brought his hogs to a Banbury market'. (fn. 48)
Banbury's proverbial association with tinkers, which dates from at least the 15th century (fn. 49) and was still current in 1710, (fn. 50) may have derived from an exemplary mass execution of tinkers there, in fact or in a ballad or other popular fiction. Such an event was referred to in 1641 and 1642, (fn. 51) and in 1615 it was said of a tinker that 'if he scape Tiburne and Banbury, he dies a beggar'. (fn. 52) A tradition that tinkers had been hanged in the Goose Leys, adjoining the bridge over the Cherwell, was recorded in 1841. (fn. 53)
The principal events in the development of puritanism in Banbury are described elsewhere; they included a dispute over the erection of a maypole in the town in 1589, the deposition and attempted reinstatement of the vicar, Thomas Bracebridge, in 1590, and the destruction of the Bread Cross and High Cross as objects of superstitious veneration in 1600. Puritanism was predominant in the borough during the incumbency of William Whately, vicar from 1610 to 1639. The incorporation of the town in the mid 16th century had given political power to a number of families, of which most derived their wealth from the cloth industry which in the course of the century replaced the trade in raw wool as the source of the greatest individual fortunes. Most of Banbury's leading inhabitants in the late 16th and early 17th century were thus described as mercer or woollendraper even if, like the Vivers and Hawten families, they also acquired agricultural interests in lands outside the town. (fn. 54) Such men, with neighbouring landowners, played leading parts in the above-mentioned events. Religious, political, and personal issues were closely interwoven in Banbury at that period: thus not only the persons responsible for demolishing the High Cross but also all but one of those opposing its destruction were among those who had signed the petition on behalf of Bracebridge 10 years earlier and might therefore be expected to favour a puritan outlook. (fn. 55) The Star Chamber suit which referred to the destruction of the crosses was concerned with the alleged wrongdoing of a small group of aldermen led by William Knight, notably the formation of a clique to control the corporation, the purchase of a mace some 15 years previously, and the incitement of so many controversies (presumably religious) among the inhabitants that people from the country around preferred to attend other market centres. (fn. 56) In 1611 two of the town's leading puritans, Thomas Wheatley and William Knight, were imprisoned in Oxford after the High Commission Court had issued a writ for £160 which presumably they had not paid: perhaps they were merely representing the borough, since the corporation accepted responsibility for the charges of the original suit. (fn. 57)
The earliest general reference to Banbury's
puritanism is in an English translation of Camden's
Britannia, published in 1610, which declared that
the town was noted for its cheese, cakes, and zeal;
the Latin original refers only to the cheese. (fn. 58)
Barnabae Itinerarium, or Barnabee's Journal, written
about 1616 by Richard Brathwait, contains perhaps
the best known of all allusions to Banbury's puritanism:
To Banbery came I, O prophane one!
Where I saw a Puritane one Hanging of his cat on Monday For killing of a mouse on Sunday. (fn. 59)
Richard Corbet's poem, Iter Boreale, written between 1618 and 1621, refers at length to the destruction of the town's crosses and of monuments and images in the church and to William Whately's long prayers and sermons, and implies also that there were meetings of independents—'the Anabaptist, Brownist'—within the town. (fn. 60) Like Corbet, Lieutenant Hammond in 1635 saw special significance in the name of a Banbury inn, the Altarstone, which referred to a supposed Roman altar contained in a niche in the wall of the building: 'they do make no conscience to translate an altar to a sign; which is a plain sign to judge how they stand addicted.' (fn. 61) By the early 17th century the name Banbury had become synonymous with puritanism. The phrase 'a Banbury man' occurs in 1614 in Ben Jonson's play Bartholomew Fair, where it refers specifically to a puritan from Banbury, (fn. 62) but 'a Banbury man' or 'a Banbury brother' was soon used sneeringly of any puritan, whether or not he came from the town. As late as 1719 Jonathan Swift wrote of 'a Banbury saint' in this sense. (fn. 63) Of the many allusions to the town's puritanism in the literature of the first half of the 17th century it is worth noting the phrase 'the loud pure wives of Banbury' in a masque by Ben Jonson in 1621 and a possible reference to a woman preacher at Banbury in Corbet's Iter Boreale; (fn. 64) otherwise the part played by women in the town's religious life is unrecorded.
Banbury's puritan leaders involved the town in matters of national political controversy when in 1627 opposition arose in Banbury to paying the forced loan required by the government. William Knight and his son Bezaleel were among those summoned to the Privy Council and required to continue their attendance until the loans were paid. (fn. 65) In the controversies of the late 16th century the puritan element in the town had had the support of Sir Anthony Cope of Hanwell; (fn. 66) after his death in 1614 his role was taken over by the equally influential William Fiennes, Viscount Saye and Sele, of Broughton (1582–1662), whose refusal to pay the forced loan was held responsible for the opposition to it in Banbury in 1627. (fn. 67)
Lord Saye and Sele was also thought to be behind the difficulties the government met with in quartering troops in Banbury in 1628. Soldiers were apparently moved to Banbury from Woodstock in February 1628 and on 1 March the Privy Council ordered the Lord Lieutenant to billet the troops and levy money for their maintenance despite 'the refractory humours of some ill-affected persons'. (fn. 68) The next day, a Sunday, a large part of the town, estimated at one-third, was destroyed by a fire. There is strong evidence that the fire began, through negligence, in a malt-house, a fact that afforded the vicar William Whately with the moral for a long sermon. (fn. 69) Soldiers in the town helped to fight the fire, (fn. 70) but in view of the trouble that had already arisen it was inevitable that it should be thought that soldiers had started it. (fn. 71) Later in the month a constable, George Phillips, arrested a soldier for a breach of the peace and so sparked off a row which was carried as far as the House of Lords, where Phillips's claim that the soldiers started the fire was investigated and abandoned through lack of evidence. (fn. 72)
Although assessed for ship money in 1635 at only £40, considered by the sheriff to be the most favourable assessment of any town in the county, (fn. 73) Banbury was not disposed to pay it. The 1635 assessment was still unpaid in June 1637, and in May 1639 there remained unpaid considerable sums due in 1636 and 1637. Mayors who attempted, with the Privy Council's support and protection, to collect the money, by distraint if necessary, were threatened by townsmen with law-suits and were opposed by their own constables, of whom three were imprisoned by the Privy Council. (fn. 74) Elsewhere in the parish opposition was strong, for as early as 1635 the constable of Neithrop, Calthorpe, and Wickham was reported to the Council for refusing to return lists of people who would not pay the tax. (fn. 75)
There can be little doubt of Banbury's parliamentarian sympathies during the Civil War, and it is thus ironic that for most of the period the town, or more particularly the castle, was a strong royalist garrison. Its position on the road from the west Midlands to London gave Banbury some importance in the events of 1642. One of the first confrontations between the royalist and parliamentarian forces took place there in July and August that year when six pieces of ordnance held in the castle were claimed by both Lord Brook, the parliamentarian commander of the Warwickshire militia, and Spencer Compton, Earl of Northampton, the king's commissioner of array for Warwickshire. The inhabitants set about fortifying the town, but on the approach of a royalist force under Northampton the defenders retreated to the castle. After a parley, the commander of the garrison surrendered the guns and the Earl of Northampton went on with them to Warwick. (fn. 76) If any attack by royalists on the castle took place at that time (one contemporary pamphlet describes one on 18 August) (fn. 77) it evidently failed, for in October Banbury was still held by the parliamentarians.
During the next two months Banbury served as a centre for various groups of parliamentary forces in the manœuvres which preceded the outbreak of Civil War. (fn. 78) A projected royalist attack on the castle was called off on 22 October when the royalists moved from Edgcote (Northants.) to meet the parliamentary army encamped at Kineton (Warws.). At Edgehill, eight miles north-west of Banbury, the first great battle of the Civil War was fought on 23 October 1642, (fn. 79) and three days later the king summoned Banbury castle to surrender. The garrison of c. 1,000 men surrendered, apparently after only a single shot had been fired, probably because of lack of enthusiasm for the parliamentary cause among the garrison, about half of whom took service under the king. (fn. 80)
During the 3½ years for which Banbury remained in royalist hands the office of governor of the castle was held by three members of the Compton family, Spencer Compton, Earl of Northampton (1642–3), (fn. 81) and his sons, James Compton, Earl of Northampton (1643–5), (fn. 82) and Sir William Compton (1645–6). (fn. 83) Throughout the period there seem normally to have been several hundred troops in the castle, (fn. 84) and sometimes more quartered in the town. (fn. 85) Larger royalist armies occasionally passed through the area, (fn. 86) and the king himself passed through Banbury twice in June 1643. (fn. 87) Banbury's function was that of a stronghold and outpost of royalist power in an area of predominantly parliamentarian sympathies. It served as a base from which forays would be made to intercept parliamentary troops, to threaten other towns, or to secure supplies; troops were also sent to collect financial levies for the king from the surrounding countryside. (fn. 88) Banbury thus supplied money and provisions for the royalist forces at Oxford. (fn. 89) The castle also served as a prison for prisoners of war and civilians suspected of treachery. (fn. 90)
On 21 December 1642 the parliamentary army of Northamptonshire entered Banbury, but retired early on 23 December, on the approach of a relieving force from Oxford. (fn. 91) A second attempt to retake the town was made in May 1643, but the parliamentary force was totally defeated at Middleton Cheney (Northants.). (fn. 92) Parliamentary forces under the Earl of Essex in September 1643, and under Cromwell in March 1644, entered the town but did not attack the castle. (fn. 93)
The first siege of Banbury (July-October 1644) seems to have been begun on the initiative of the local parliamentary commanders, who were anxious to end the garrison's forays and exactions. As late as 3 September the Committee of Both Kingdoms had to be persuaded by local county committees to revoke orders to raise the siege. (fn. 94) This may explain why, although parliamentary forces blockaded the roads around Banbury from 19 July, (fn. 95) it was not until 25 August that the besieging force of c. 3,500 under Col. John Fiennes (fn. 96) entered the town. A garrison of c. 400 was commanded by Sir William Compton. (fn. 97)
The besiegers spent the first month of the siege setting up batteries and constructing siegeworks. (fn. 98) One battery was probably in the Market Place, another outside North Bar; (fn. 99) guns were apparently also placed on the church steeple, which was destroyed by the garrison, as were houses near the castle. (fn. 100) More artillery, and possibly reinforcements, reached the besiegers early in September, and on 23 September an unsuccessful attempt was made to storm the castle. (fn. 101) At the end of the month Jacob Kuilenburg, the parliamentary chief engineer, was instructed to advise on the siegeworks. (fn. 102) Cromwell himself may have been in Banbury in mid September. (fn. 103) Local royalist attempts to relieve the garrison on 20 and 23 October failed, (fn. 104) but the siege was raised on 25 October, on the approach of a royalist army under the Earl of Northampton. (fn. 105)
There seems to have been no more fighting in Banbury until the siege of the castle, which had been thoroughly repaired, (fn. 106) was renewed in January 1646. (fn. 107) The second siege was initiated and organized throughout by the Committee of Both Kingdoms. (fn. 108) The first summons to surrender, made on 18 March, was rejected by the royalist governor, Sir William Compton, (fn. 109) but on 8 May, shortly after the arrival of the parliamentary mortars and heavy guns, (fn. 110) the garrison surrendered. (fn. 111) There is hardly any record of the use of ordnance against the castle, which was well stocked with provisions, arms, and ammunition. Its surrender seems to have been due partly to the increasing threat from the parliamentary siegeworks, and partly to the news of the king's flight to the Scottish army on 6 May. (fn. 112)
With the castle's surrender the main impact of the Civil War on Banbury came to an end. Damage to the town was severe (fn. 113) and the general interruption of the town's life was disastrous. Some inhabitants probably left Banbury very early in the war: in March 1643 the wife of an alderman who had fled from the town some time before was tried as a spy. (fn. 114) The burials recorded in the parish register rose from an average of 73 a year between 1632 and 1641 to 254 in 1643, 299 in 1644, and 212 in 1645. There was a sudden drop to 31 in the six months of 1646 for which a record was kept, and a further drop to 26 in the whole of 1647 and 30 in 1648; the average between 1647 and 1652 was 43. The figures do not include casualties in general engagements, but still reflect the continual presence of troops in the town, occasionally in very large numbers; burials specifically of soldiers totalled 59 in 1643, 33 in 1644, and 40 in 1645. (fn. 115) Epidemics were reported between 1643 and 1645, and from March to November 1644 at least 161 victims of the plague were buried. (fn. 116) Illness apart, life was apparently far from pleasant for the inhabitants of so avowedly puritan a town as Banbury when royalist troops occupied the castle and were even quartered in their homes. Several cases are recorded of the imprisonment or execution of townsmen as spies. (fn. 117) Probably the siege of July–October 1644 and the garrison's subsequent work of fortification caused the greatest disruption. It was at that stage that Banbury's government seems to have collapsed and most of the aldermen and burgesses fled the town, returning only after the castle's fall. (fn. 118) Even so the town continued to function as a market centre for the country around, for in April 1645 the weekly Thursday market was still being held. (fn. 119)
In 1646 the town government was restored by parliamentary order and the minister's stipend was augmented in consideration of 'the heavy pressures that have lain upon the said town, and the great losses they have had'. (fn. 120) In May 1649 Banbury was the scene of further disturbances, when a group of about 200 Levellers led by William Thompson, an officer in an Oxfordshire troop of the parliamentary army, came to the town and posted there a declaration against the government. Thompson and his followers were formally declared rebels by Parliament but had already been dispersed by the parliamentary army. (fn. 121) In August 1651 Banbury was a rallying-point for part of the Commonwealth army before the battle of Worcester. (fn. 122)
The return of peaceful conditions apparently enabled the town to regain its former size and population, and in the late 17th century Banbury's commerce seems to have expanded, with a marked increase in the number of inns and the first record of a specialized cloth industry there in the manufacture of webbing and horse-cloths. (fn. 123) There is some evidence that in that period Neithrop and Calthorpe ceased to be predominantly agrarian settlements. (fn. 124) For a time the town continued its tradition of radicalism, both political and religious. In January 1664 the Lord Treasurer ordered the arrest not only of three people in Banbury who had abused excise officers when they tried to distrain for non-payment of excise but also of the Banbury constable and tithingman for refusing to levy a distress themselves. (fn. 125) A year later another inhabitant was arrested for posting up leaflets attacking the excise and for arresting an excise officer. (fn. 126) In 1667 Banbury was one of the places where riots occurred when hearth tax was collected. (fn. 127) In the same year a correspondent wrote to the Secretary of State that there was 'too little interruption of that old serpent, the presbyter, and his amphibious spawn' in Banbury and its neighbourhood. (fn. 128) In the 1650s the town had been vigorously proselytized by eminent Quaker missionaries, who won the support of a number of influential families, many of them with traditional puritan backgrounds; Banbury quickly became the society's most important centre in the county. The Presbyterians also successfully established a meeting in the 1660s; it flourished in the 18th century, attracting adherents from the substantial middle-class of the town. (fn. 129)
In some respects, however, the town's radical tradition declined in the 18th century. The welcome given to the High Church hero Dr. Sacheverell when he visited Banbury in 1710 (fn. 130) is in interesting contrast to the destruction of the crosses a century before. Soldiers may have been quartered at Banbury from March 1714 to October 1716 because of the strength of the non-jurors in the town; certainly it was a dispute between the whig and non-juring members of the corporation which caused its failure to elect a mayor in 1717 and the consequent issue of a new charter to the town the following year. (fn. 131) The establishment of the North family of Wroxton as political patrons of the borough reflects the changes in the town's outlook in politics and religion and was probably partly responsible for them. From 1685 until the 1832 Reform Act Banbury's M.P. was usually a North or one of the family's connexions, and in 1780 John Robinson described Banbury as a 'family borough' of the Norths. (fn. 132) From 1754 to 1790 Banbury's M.P. was Frederick, Lord North, who was Prime Minister from 1770 to 1782. In 1785 John Byng remarked that Banbury 'must have tasted the sweets of their representative's being Prime Minister for 12 years'; (fn. 133) In fact the Norths were considerable benefactors of the borough.
References to the town continued in the literature
of the 18th century. Jonathan Swift made the hero
of Gulliver's Travels (1726) claim an Oxfordshire
ancestry, '… to confirm which, I have observed in
the churchyard at Banbury, in that county, several
tombs and monuments of the Gullivers'; (fn. 134) Beesley
records a tradition that it was seeing one such tomb
at Banbury that led Swift to choose this name. (fn. 135)
There is no explanation for the town's appearance
in the title of one of the earliest and best-known
books on weather-forecasting in England, The
Shepherd of Banbury's Rules to judge of the changes
of the weather, which was first published in London
in 1744, and has been attributed to John Campbell,
a Scotsman. (fn. 136) About that date was published the
earliest recorded rhyme with the opening lines
'Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross':
Ride a Cock Horse
To Banbury Cross,
To see what
Tommy can buy,
A Penny White loaf,
A Penny White Cake,
And a Hugegy penny pye. (fn. 137)
Another version appeared c. 1780 in Nancy Cock's
Pretty Song Book:
Ride a cock-horse
To Banbury Cross
To buy little Nancy
An ambling horse,
It gallops before,
And trots behind,
So Nancy may ride it
'Till it is blind.
The verse (the first in the book) may have occasioned
the book's title, or it may have been adapted to
accord with it. (fn. 138) In 1784 a third version was published with the opening:
Ride a cock-horse, to Banbury cross,
To see an old woman get upon her horse,
Rings on her fingers, and bells at her toes,
And so she makes music where ever she goes. (fn. 139)
All three rhymes appeared, with variants, in other collections of the late 18th and early 19th centuries; the 'old woman' of the third rhyme first appears as a 'fine lady' in 1797. Sometimes another town—Bamborough, Coventry, or Shrewsbury—was substituted for Banbury, but Banbury is named in all the 18th-century versions. (fn. 140) It has been suggested that a line by Carey, 'Now on cock-horse does he ride', c. 1720, may be an allusion to one of the rhymes. (fn. 141) Probably they were widely known when they were first printed, and various theories postulate a 16th-century or earlier origin at least for the third of the rhymes, which was to become the best known. (fn. 142) The absence, however, of any allusion to the rhymes among the many other literary references to Banbury in the early 17th century makes it probable that their diffusion (if not their origin) was later than that. The town may have been chosen simply as one that was well known as a market-town from its central position. The rhymes provided a good precedent for J. G. Rusher, the Banbury printer, when he included references to the town in the verses and stories for children that he published in the early 19th century. (fn. 143)
Although there were a few small factories within the borough in the 18th century it was mainly as a collecting centre that the town participated in the plush weaving industry that developed in the district. The industry was connected with Coventry and was no doubt helped by the completion in 1778 of the Coventry-Banbury section of the Oxford canal. (fn. 144) One of the canal's most important functions was to bring coal to Banbury for distribution throughout the region, and by 1841 there were three wharves and a dock for building and repairing barges. (fn. 145) Although Banbury was described in 1785 as a 'dirty, ill-built town' (fn. 146) it must have been reasonably prosperous or it would not have undertaken the destruction of its old church and the building of a new one in the 1790s. That decision involved the parish in great expense and bitterness, and focused radical opposition to the church rate; although the planned rebuilding was finished in 1822 the struggle to pay for it continued into the middle of the century. (fn. 147) A rhyme, 'dirty Banbury's proud people, built a church without a steeple', (fn. 148) may safely be dated to the period 1797–c. 1818 when building operations were suspended through lack of money. A description of the town in the 1820s, written by George Herbert (1814–1902), a shoemaker and photographer who spent most of his life in Banbury, (fn. 149) confirms the picture of a town dominated by self-employed artisans and tradesmen, their customers drawn from the countryside which looked to Banbury as its centre.
During the 18th century most of the main roads radiating from Banbury were turnpiked: the road from Buckingham to Banbury and northwards to Warmington (Warws.) was turnpiked in 1743–4 and disturnpiked in 1871; (fn. 150) a branch from that road to Edgehill was turnpiked in 1753 and disturnpiked in 1871; (fn. 151) the Southam—Oxford road was turnpiked in 1754–5, and disturnpiked in 1875 and 1878; (fn. 152) turnpike trusts were set up for the Banbury–Daventry road (1765 until 1870), the Burford–Banbury road (1770 until 1871), and the Banbury–Brailes road (1781–2 until 1872). (fn. 153) The first reference to a coach service from Banbury is in 1731 and by 1830 there were 54 coaches a week leaving the town, 20 to London, 13 to Birmingham, 6 each to Leicester and Oxford, and 3 each to Northampton, Cheltenham, and Leamington. The firm of Judd's in the late 18th century ran a regular waggon service to London and Birmingham, and the village carts kept Banbury in close touch with a wide area. (fn. 154) The roads within the town were clearly in poor condition before the Paving Commissioners were appointed in 1825; the references to 'dirty Banbury' almost certainly related to the roads. The Paving Commissioners later metalled and paved the streets, and improved the important southern entrance to the town by lowering the slope of the Oxford road at Easington. (fn. 155)
Banbury was involved in the food riots which swept the country in 1800. Although townspeople took part it is clear that a major role was played by groups of workers from outside the town, notably the stocking-weavers of Middleton Cheney (Northants.), and possibly colliers from Warwickshire. The first riot (11 September) raged for most of the day but little damage was done except 'a partial mischief amongst the butter people', the selling of food at reduced prices, and an assault on the 'Red Lion', which was owned by a prominent farmer and corn dealer, Henry Pratt. The magistrates, led by the mayor, William Walford, promised to call a meeting of farmers and were clearly disposed to persuade them to lower their prices. After 'gentle censure' from the Duke of Portland, Secretary of State for the Home Department, Walford became 'the advocate for firm and steady measures', and under the protection of horse-troops the promised meeting (15 September) ignored the rioters and made no concessions; the troops charged the mob, a child was killed, and the ringleaders were arrested, notably Thomas Whitmore, a Middleton Cheney weaver, whose arrival in Oxford on his way to gaol sparked off a riot there also. That the Banbury riots were part of a wider movement is shown by a letter found in Whitmore's possession giving a full account of the Nottingham riots: the letter had been sent to a Middleton Cheney man a few days before the first Banbury riot. (fn. 156)
In 1830 Banbury was the scene of one of the 'Swing' riots widespread among the agricultural labourers of the south of England. On 29 November a mob of several hundred people set fire to agricultural machinery at Neithrop; most of the rioters were said to have been townsmen, not farm labourers, and of 20 people later brought to trial several were small craftsmen and tradesmen of Banbury. The disturbance had been anticipated, and, although the rioters repelled a section of the county yeomanry that had been sent to Banbury, they were dispersed by 'a strong posse of tradesmen' who had been sworn in as special constables. The following evening disturbances in neighbouring parishes were checked by a detachment of dragoons that had been sent from Coventry. (fn. 157) The riot and other disturbances in the area were said to have caused a rise in wages. (fn. 158)
The growth of the Reform movement in Banbury in the 1820s may be traced in the activities of later Reform leaders in powerful bodies outside the corporation, notably the trustees for rebuilding the church, the vestry, and the Paving Commissioners appointed in 1825. By the early 1830s feeling for Reform was so general in the town that not only some of the corporation but 'almost every Conservative in the place' supported the Bill. (fn. 159) Most of the later leaders of the Reforming party came from one or other of the powerful nonconformist congregations, which by the mid 19th century could claim numerical superiority over the established church and possessed not only political power but private wealth. The passing of the Bill divided the town into two bitterly opposed political groups, and although the Liberals were dominant and provided the town's M.P. until Banbury ceased to be a constituency in 1885, the Conservatives were an equally coherent body. Despite a steady increase in population from 1811 to 1871 the period was not one of uninterrupted prosperity for the town. In particular, until the extension of the agricultural implements manufactures the intermittent decline of the cloth industry caused some hardship. The coming, however, first of the canal (1778), then of the railway (1850), enhanced the town's traditional importance as a centre for supplying goods and collecting produce throughout the 'one hundred and forty places within a circuit of ten miles' for which Banbury was a 'metropolis', as described in 1843. (fn. 160) The railways established were the Great Western Railway opened from Oxford to Banbury in 1850 and from Banbury to Birmingham in 1852, the Buckinghamshire Railway to Verney Junction opened in 1850, the Banbury and Cheltenham Direct Railway opened in 1887, and the Great Central Railway's line to Culworth Junction in 1900. (fn. 161) Good rail connexions made it possible for Sir Bernhard Samuelson to build up from an existing foundry an agricultural implements factory which was soon the town's largest industrial enterprise.
Samuelson came to occupy something of the same position in Banbury as the borough's great patrons, the Cope, Fiennes, and North families, in earlier periods. He sat as M.P. for the town in 1859 and from 1865 to 1885, and for the newly created Banbury division of Oxfordshire from 1885 to 1895. In his political career he was a constant advocate of the need for education, especially technical education, and in Banbury itself his principal benefactions were in that sphere; they included the construction of buildings for the Cherwell British Schools (1861) and for the Mechanics' Institute and Banbury School of Science and Art (1884), and he was influential in securing the extension of the latter to house the Municipal School (1893). (fn. 162) One respect in which his position differed from that of the borough's earlier patrons was that it was based on a close association with the life of the town itself as head of its largest industrial undertaking; his economic interest lay within Banbury, not in its neighbouring parishes. This may be taken as symptomatic of the change in Banbury's status within its region during the 19th century; it had itself become the centre of wealth, instead of existing merely to serve the countryside where all wealth had lain hitherto.
Even so Banbury's prosperity was at least as much linked with that of agriculture as it had been before, and the agricultural depression of the 1870s opened a period of stagnation in the town's life. There was only a slight rise in population in the next 50 years; the town did not actually decline, and some immigration from the surrounding country did still occur, but in default of further industrial expansion it was ceasing to grow, while socially it had become an extremely static and inward-looking community. (fn. 163) Revival began in the late 1920s with the reorganization of the market, which eventually made Banbury a national, instead of a local, centre for stock-sales, and the planning of an aluminium factory which was to bring to the town a new industry that was not only large-scale, but completely independent of agriculture. Industries continued to be established after the 1920s and the rate of population increase was well above the national average because of immigration. A survey of Banbury in the early 1950s showed considerable differences between the recent immigrants and the natives of Banbury, particularly affecting their attitude and way of life in social, political, and religious spheres; it did not point to serious tension between the two groups, and intermarriage was not much less usual than marriage within either group. (fn. 164) The survey showed clearly, however, that immigrants who came to Banbury in the 1930s and 1940s changed the social structure of the town, which had previously been static and rigorously stratified. Since that survey Banbury has become an overspill town, attracting industries of many kinds, and an immigrant population to work in them, and its built-up area has spread across the rich land which once supported prosperous farmers. Although through its cattle market, one of the largest in England, Banbury keeps touch with the agricultural community, the small self-conscious market-town which George Herbert lovingly depicted has been submerged.
Before the proliferation of societies and clubs in the 19th century there were relatively few organized social activities in the town. Traditional medieval amusements such as the pageant, the maypole, strolling players, and minstrels survived into the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 165) It may be conjectured that not only maypoles, Whitsun ales, May games, and morris dances (fn. 166) but a wider range of amusements were curtailed in a town so dominated by puritans: by contrast Banbury people flocked to hear sermons and lectures by some of the leading preachers of the day. (fn. 167) For the town's leaders there were lavish corporation dinners, and for all the inhabitants a growing number of inns where many amusements other than drinking were offered, including, for example, illegal gaming. (fn. 168)
Part of the celebrations following the 1554 charter was a play, described as 'Dycher and Bramleye', for which player's gear was hired from Coventry. (fn. 169) Strolling players, who may have performed in a barn behind Horse Fair, (fn. 170) visited the town in 1633, and the corporation arrested and imprisoned six 'wandering rogues' whom they claimed had forged a patent to perform. This may have been an excuse by the puritan element in the town to prevent the show, for the Privy Council discharged the players. (fn. 171) In 1740 plays were being held in an inn. (fn. 172) Plays at Banbury are recorded in 1768 and 1780, when a travelling company was apparently offering 'all the new pieces', including 'School for Scandal'. (fn. 173) 'Don Juan' was produced in 1798 by a theatrical company from Cheltenham. (fn. 174) The earliest known theatre, called Davenport, was over the Butchers' Shambles. Before 1832 it was reconstructed by James Hill in Church Lane, behind and over a furniture dealer's shop. (fn. 175) It was a brick building with boxes, gallery, and pit, and in 1854 held 200–300 persons. (fn. 176) In 1832, and probably earlier, H. Jackman from Northampton leased the theatre every two years from January to March; his shows were popular and drew full houses. (fn. 177) After the theatre's closure in 1861 touring companies played at the Exchange in the Market Place. (fn. 178) There was no theatre in Banbury in 1969, but amateur dramatics functioned through the Banbury Cross Players, formed in 1947, and the Old Banburians' Dramatic Society. (fn. 179)
Organized musical activity began with the formation in 1834 of the Amateur Musical Society which gave monthly concerts. (fn. 180) A Choral Society, which met weekly, was formed in 1844, (fn. 181) and the Banbury Philharmonic Society, founded in 1853, gave regular concerts in the National school, the Town Hall, or the Central Corn Exchange. (fn. 182) The Banbury Madrigal and Glee Union was founded c. 1892, (fn. 183) and in 1919 the Banbury and District Musical Society was formed, and thereafter gave annual celebrity concerts. (fn. 184) Brass bands were less successful in obtaining public interest. A brass band was in existence in 1845, (fn. 185) but no more is known about it. In the late 19th century the Waits, a section of the Oxon. and Bucks. Light Infantry Volunteer Band, played in the town during the summer and the Christmas season. (fn. 186) In 1957 Banbury Borough Silver Band was formed, but it broke up a year later because of lack of interest. (fn. 187)
The Banbury Working Men's Association was formed in 1838 'to promote the moral, intellectual, and political advancement of the working class', (fn. 188) and the Mechanics' Institute (fn. 189) provided a library of scientific, literary, historical, and French books. When the new building was opened in 1884 the library contained 12,000 volumes. Accommodation included a lending library, a small museum, and rooms for reference, magazines, general reading, ladies' reading, chess, conversation, and lectures. An annual subscription of one guinea entitled members to take out three sets of books, and their families to use the reading, magazine, and reference rooms. (fn. 190) Other libraries were also started. In 1844 William Potts advertised a circulating library of 79 books and periodicals, and Henry Stone announced the opening of a News and Reading Room in the High Street, where the London daily and weekly newspapers and the main literary periodicals and quarterly reviews would be available for one guinea a year. (fn. 191) Later in the century Stone and Hartley's bookshop had a lending library. (fn. 192) Banbury corporation adopted the Public Libraries Act in 1944, and took over the Mechanics' Institute Library. By 1948 there were 6,000 borrowers, compared with 600 in 1905; in 1969 the library provided a lending library, a reference library, and a magazine room in Banbury. (fn. 193) Branch libraries were opened in Warwick Road in 1952, and in Neithrop in 1966. (fn. 194) The museum, which was also taken over from the Mechanics' Institute, was reopened as a local history museum in 1968, after a closure of some years. A full-time curator was appointed in 1969. (fn. 195)
Interest in academic subjects was reflected in the formation of an Archaeological Society in 1858, a Literary and Philosophical Society in 1876, (fn. 196) and a Natural History Society and the Banbury Historical Society in 1958. (fn. 197) Banbury Agricultural Society was founded in 1834, and Banbury Horticultural Society in 1838; both societies held annual shows in the 19th century. (fn. 198) The first Banbury Arts and Crafts festival was held in 1947. By 1962 it had run into financial difficulties. In 1963 the Banbury Arts Council was formed to coordinate the efforts of the various artistic societies. (fn. 199)
Animated pictures were first shown in Banbury in 1896, at the Central Corn Exchange, by T. J. H. Blinkhorn, a Banbury photographer, who in 1916 started Blinkhorn's Picture House in the Corn Exchange. The picture-house was taken over by the Palace Theatre Company in 1926 and renamed the Palace Theatre. In 1934 it was leased to Union Cinemas, which were absorbed by Associated British Cinemas in 1938; it closed in 1961. (fn. 200) The Grand Cinema opened c. 1918 and became part of A.B.C. in 1938. It closed in 1968 and reopened as a bingo club. (fn. 201) A third cinema, the Regal, opened after 1945; in 1956 it was taken over by the Essoldo group and renamed the Essoldo. (fn. 202) It was still a cinema in 1969.
Bear-baiting was probably once put on in the Bear Garden; the sport was a common one in the later 16th century, and was mentioned by Thomas Bracebridge (d. 1593) who spent nearly all his life in Banbury. (fn. 203) In 1789 a prize fight was held on a turf stage erected in the Leys, and prize-fighting, as well as bull-baiting, badger-baiting, cock-fighting, and dog-fighting, was popular in Banbury in the early 19th century. (fn. 204) In 1837, however, the magistrates drove two prize-fighters out of the borough and prize-fighting in Banbury came to an end, although boxing continued to be one of the attractions at the Michaelmas fair. (fn. 205) In the 1930s the Achilles Boxing Club held training nights three times a week, and later the Winter Gardens, opened in 1955, provided facilities for both wrestling and boxing as well as other sports. (fn. 206)
Bowls may have been played in Banbury in the 16th century, for in 1884 the Banbury Old Central Club celebrated the tercentenary of their green, which adjoined the old Reindeer Inn. (fn. 207) A bowling green was probably attached to the 'Three Tuns' in 1677; it certainly existed by 1780. There was a bowling green and skittle alley at the 'Reindeer' in 1794. (fn. 208) The Chestnuts, a highly successful bowling club, was formed in 1891. Their green may have been part of that once attached to the 'Three Tuns'. The Old Central Club was disbanded in 1929 but was restarted in 1931 as the Banbury Central Club. The Banbury Cross Indoor Bowls Club was formed in 1955 in anticipation of the opening of the Winter Gardens. (fn. 209) A cricket club was in existence c. 1832, (fn. 210) but it appears to have been short-lived, for in 1844 a new club was formed (fn. 211) which in 1852 was listed among the 87 leading cricket clubs in the country; in 1851 it defeated an All England XI with the help of imported professionals who bowled throughout. (fn. 212) During the Second World War the club ceased playing, and the Banbury Twenty Club was formed to continue senior cricket. In 1949 the Banbury Club was reformed, (fn. 213) and in 1969 there were three cricket clubs in Banbury, the two already described, and the Banbury Town Originals. (fn. 214) Other sports clubs included a football club formed in 1875, a bicycle club formed in 1876, and a swimming club started in 1888; a skating rink at the Corn Exchange was in use in 1879. (fn. 215) By the mid 20th century there were also fishing, tennis, and golf clubs. (fn. 216) Quoits were becoming a popular sport by 1879, and in 1881 there were two clubs, one at the 'Plough' and one at the 'Reindeer'. Banbury Harriers and Athletic Club was formed in 1881 and took a leading part in sporting activities in the town at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. The club had a gymnasium at the Corn Exchange, but in 1902 moved to Crouch Street British school. The club ran a Whit Monday sports meeting which was attended by champion walkers, runners, and cyclists from all over the county; German bands, Italians with organs and monkeys, and keepers of dancing bears added to the entertainment on those occasions. (fn. 217) Swimming-pools and public parks and recreation grounds were, from the late 19th century, provided and administered by the corporation. (fn. 218)
The first recorded horse-races held at Banbury took place in 1729; in 1739, when visited by Frederick, Prince of Wales, they were held over three days. By 1843 races were being held one day a year in Grimsbury, but ceased after 1845. Other races took place in Mill Meadows. Some steeplechases were held at the time at Claydon Hill and elsewhere. (fn. 219) Later, between 1903 and 1907, steeplechasing took place annually on a course of once round the borough. (fn. 220)
Banbury was from an early date well supplied with inns: five inns, the 'Lion', the 'Crown', the 'Horseshoe', the 'Swan', and the 'Angel', are recorded in the 16th century, and 12 more are recorded in the 17th century, 11 of them in the period after 1640. (fn. 221) By 1636 there were also three taverns or wineshops. (fn. 222) The 'Lion', which was kept by John Barnesley until his death in 1581, was the inn used by the corporation for their annual suppers: the first dinner of the corporation was held there in 1554 after the granting of the borough charter. (fn. 223) In the 18th century, however, the 'Three Tuns', first recorded in 1677, seems to have been the town's most important inn, and business meetings, as well as assemblies, balls, card parties, and concerts, were held in its 'great room'. The inn is last recorded in 1782, and in the early 19th century it was a private house. (fn. 224) Although not recorded as an inn until the later 17th century, the 'Reindeer', which survives, was probably already an inn in the 16th century. (fn. 225) Another surviving old inn, the 'Unicorn', was built probably in 1648, but was first recorded as an inn in 1676. (fn. 226)
In the 19th century the number of inns and other drinking places grew rapidly. There were about 40 in 1830, and by 1841 the number had risen to 66, that is approximately one drinking place for every 108 of the borough's population, (fn. 227) and there were also 11 spirit merchants. (fn. 228) The inns had been the centres of social life in Banbury, but by the mid 19th century habits were changing, and public events such as concerts and balls were held in the town hall or in the two corn exchanges (built 1857), school rooms, or even railway stations. (fn. 229) Although the number of drinking places continued to increase, their numbers could not keep pace with the rising population. (fn. 230)
The amount of drinking, and of drunkenness and violence, in Banbury in the 1830s gave rise to concern among the middle classes, and in 1835 the Banbury Temperance Society was formed. This was at first essentially a moderate anti-spirits organization with a largely middle-class membership, but after the visit in 1836 of the militant teetotaller, John Hocking, the Birmingham blacksmith, it became a vigorous, proselytizing, teetotal body, drawing its chief support from the nonconformist churches. (fn. 231) Enthusiasm for the movement declined markedly after the 1840s, and, although the Temperance Society was still in existence at the end of the century, (fn. 232) its proselytizing efforts were by then directed at children rather than at adult drinkers. A branch of the Band of Hope was founded in 1855. (fn. 233) The Temperance Hall was designed by Samuel Ingall of Birmingham and built by J. & T. Davies, Banbury. (fn. 234) It is of brick with stone dressings, and is Italianate in style; the accommodation was planned to include a coffee room, a Band of Hope room, a Grand Templars' Lodge room, and a large Temperance Hall on the first floor.
Banbury Co-operative Society, founded in 1866, was originally an offshoot of the Temperance Society, its inspiration having been a Temperance Christmas club. As well as a shop, it provided concerts, lectures, evening classes, a library and reading room, a women's guild, a youth organization, and an annual flower-show. (fn. 235) By 1874 it had 850 members, of whom about 450 were agricultural labourers from the surrounding villages. (fn. 236)
A large number of benefit and friendly societies flourished in Banbury in the 19th century. (fn. 237) One of the longest lasting was the Banbury and Neithrop Clothing Society, established in 1831, which did not dissolve until 1944. (fn. 238) A Savings Bank existed in 1830, and various savings societies appeared in the course of the century, including the Small Savings Society, and the Building and Investment Society in 1848. (fn. 239) A Female Friendly Society existed in 1806, (fn. 240) a Labourers' Friend Society in 1834, a Blanket Lending Society in 1852, and a soup kitchen in 1885. (fn. 241) In 1874 six friendly societies were recorded in Banbury. The largest were the Christian United Brethren Society (founded 1840), which had 140 members and £1,644 stock, and the United Britons' Benefit Society (founded c. 1850), which had 181 members and £710 stock. The remaining societies were: the Tradesmen's Friendly Benefit (founded 1841; 10 members and £81 stock), the Conservative Benefit (founded 1840; 29 members and £112 stock), the Reformer's (founded 1837; 27 members and £80 stock), and the Old Friendly Society (founded 1816; 21 members and £35 stock). All the societies provided sick pay and benefit; most members were artisans or small shop-keepers. (fn. 242) Another mutual aid society was organized in Bernhard Samuelson's Britannia Works, with at least the active encouragement of the management, contributions being stopped out of the workmen's pay. The works also supported a funeral fund subsidized by the management. (fn. 243) Between 1885 and 1896 two other benefit societies were recorded in Banbury, the Rechabites Cadbury Tent (a Temperance group), and the Hearts of Oak Benefit Society. (fn. 244)
Other societies were formed for the protection of their members or the community generally. A protection society was meeting in Banbury in 1782. (fn. 245) The Neithrop Association for the Prosecution of Felons was founded in 1819, and, as the Neithrop Association for the Protection of Persons and Property, was in existence in 1965. (fn. 246) A similar association founded in Banbury borough in 1835 soon ceased to prosecute felons and had become a dining club by 1852. (fn. 247) There was also a Cottage Owners' Protection Association in the later 19th century. (fn. 248)
Banbury was the first town in Oxfordshire after Oxford itself to have a Freemason's Lodge. The Lodge (No. 181) was started in 1740 and continued until 1768. In 1794 another Lodge (No. 172) moved from Chipping Norton to Banbury, where it met at the Cock Inn until 1813. It was revived in 1815 and continued until 1828. The first of Banbury's surviving lodges, Cherwell Lodge, was founded in 1852 to meet at the 'Red Lion'. In 1882 the Provincial Grand Lodge held its annual meeting in Banbury, and its members took part in laying the foundation stone of the Masonic Hall. Five years later the Cherwell Chapter of Royal Arch Masons was formed in Banbury. Three more lodges and one Mark lodge have been founded during the 20th century. (fn. 249)
Other organizations with branches in Banbury in the 19th century included the Oddfellows, the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, the Good Templars, and the Court of Loyal Britannia. A Rotary Club was formed in 1935. (fn. 250) Some ran benefit societies. The British Queen Lodge of Oddfellows (Manchester Unity) was a branch of a secret society similar to the Freemasons, but it also organized a benefit society and made some provision for the widows and orphans of its members. In 1874 its benefit society had 170 members and a stock of between £1,400 and £1,500. Labourers were practically excluded by the high rate of contributions. (fn. 251) Some of the above societies seem to have had strong political connexions: in 1832, in a procession celebrating the passing of the Reform Act, members of the Society of Oddfellows, in full regalia, were placed next after the committee, (fn. 252) and in 1866 a contingent from the Grimsbury lodge of Foresters took part in a demonstration in favour of parliamentary reform. (fn. 253) In the 19th century the Banbury benefit societies held their club day on the first Tuesday in July, when each club walked to church in procession for a special sermon, and later adjourned for lunch at its particular public house; sports were held in the afternoon, and the day ended with feasting, and perhaps dancing in the evening. (fn. 254)
The most lavish celebration of a national event at Banbury appears to have been that for the coronation of Queen Victoria, at which there was a procession of all the trades, societies, and schools in the town, together with bands, decorated cars, and a large boat, the 'Victoria', with 'Britannia Rules the Waves' written on the mainsail. After the procession there was a dinner for 3,600 persons, for which 3,059 lb. of meat, 1,700 lb. of pudding, 1,595 lb. of bread, and 612 gallons of ale were provided. Sports were held in the afternoon, dancing in the evening. (fn. 255) Processions were also held to mark the Queen's jubilees in 1887 and 1897 and the marriage of the Duke of York (later George V) in 1893. (fn. 256)
Banbury's first newspaper was the monthly The Guardian, produced in 1838 by William Potts; it was refounded in 1843 as a weekly paper, The Banbury Guardian, and was still in existence in 1969. (fn. 257) In its first issue The Banbury Guardian announced that its vocation was to be 'a faithful register of current events', and stated its intention to be strictly impartial. (fn. 258) The other surviving Banbury newspaper, The Banbury Advertiser (founded in 1855), was in the 1850s the mouthpiece of militant nonconformity and radicalism. (fn. 259) In 1856 an article declared that the paper advocated universal suffrage and the ballot, and the liberation of religion from all state patronage and control. (fn. 260) Another fairly successful Banbury paper was The Banbury Beacon (1860–1905); less successful were The Banbury Herald (1861–9), The Banbury Evening News (1877), and The Banbury Evening Telegraph (1893–5). (fn. 261)
The first recorded royal visitor to the town was Henry III, who stayed there in 1218, 1229, 1235, 1262, and 1266. (fn. 262) Edward I was at Banbury in 1275 and 1276, and in 1277, when he stayed for more than a week, five oaks were given to the constable of the castle to repair damage done to the stables. (fn. 263) Edward III stayed at Banbury in 1328, 1329, and 1348; (fn. 264) Richard II in 1397; Henry VI in 1438 and 1457; and Edward VI in 1470 and 1474. (fn. 265) On all those occasions the king presumably stayed at the castle; and a royal council was held there on 5 February 1501. (fn. 266) Banbury was included in proposed itineraries for Henry VIII in 1541 and Elizabeth I in 1575, (fn. 267) and the corporation entertained James I at some time before 1612. (fn. 268) During the Civil War the town was visited by Charles I, perhaps in 1642 and certainly in 1643 (when he was accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York) and 1645. (fn. 269) Prince Rupert may have led the force which relieved Banbury in 1642, and certainly in 1645 he and Prince Maurice met there. (fn. 270) James II passed through the town in 1687, and was given a cake carried by four men. (fn. 271) A present of a cake was made to the Prince and Princess of Wales when they visited Banbury in 1739 in the course of a visit to Wroxton. (fn. 272) A later Prince of Wales visited Wroxton in 1805, 1806, and 1808; in 1806, when he was accompanied by the Duke of Clarence, the freedom of the borough was bestowed on them both, as also on the Duke of Sussex when he accompanied the Prince of Wales in 1808. (fn. 273) A civic welcome was given to Queen Victoria when she passed through Banbury by train on her way to Wolverhampton in 1866, (fn. 274) and in 1882 Leopold, Duke of Albany, laid the foundation stone of the Masonic Hall. (fn. 275) In 1957 the Duke of Edinburgh visited the factory of the Northern Aluminium Co. Ltd. and Aluminium Laboratories Ltd. (fn. 276)
Among distinguished natives of Banbury may be mentioned Samuel Newman (1602–63), a prominent puritan, and author of a concordance on the Bible, who later emigrated to New England; (fn. 277) John Langley (d. 1657), later headmaster of St. Paul's School, London, a distinguished scholar and puritan, and one of the witnesses against Archbishop Laud at his trial; (fn. 278) Edward Gee (1613–60), author and noted Presbyterian; (fn. 279) and one of the town's benefactors, Joshua Sprigge, a leading Independent author, appointed a fellow of All Souls, Oxford, by Parliament in 1648 in order to reform the University. Sprigge was described by Anthony Wood as 'of civil conversation, but far gone in enthusiasm'; he was something of an individualist for he preached against the execution of Charles I and later petitioned in support of James Naylor, the Quaker. (fn. 280) George Gulliver (1804–82), anatomist and physiologist, and possibly Edward Welchman (1665–1739), theologian, were also born in Banbury. (fn. 281)
Sir William Knollys, son of the puritan Sir Francis Knollys, was named High Steward of Banbury in the charter of 1608 and when created a peer in 1626 chose the title of Earl of Banbury. (fn. 282) Many notable figures in the town's history are mentioned elsewhere in this account. Here it is fitting to single out Alfred Beesley, a native of the town, who in 1841 published an outstanding history of Banbury and its neighbourhood based on a wide range of manuscript and printed sources. (fn. 283)