A visitor’s guide to Banbury

PUBLISHED: 13:56 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:56 01 April 2020

Banbury

Banbury

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We’ve assembled a brief guide to help you to get the most from your visit to Banbury, sponsored by Spratt Endicott

Population: 47,000

Move here for... £600,000

And get: An extended bungalow with four bedrooms, including two upstairs, plus a seriously stylish kitchen-diner-family room, and low maintenance gardens. Eat at: The Moon and Sixpence (01295 730544)

Why? Just north of Banbury, the Moon and Sixpence is a true gastro-pub with a variety of gourmet dishes created using the best produce of the day. Chef Hylton Bradley is the man at the helm.

Drink at: The Three Pigeons Inn (01295 275220)

Why? A thatched town centre coaching inn with a tradition of hospitality, the Three Pigeons has a good selection of ales, whiskies and wines, plus a charming garden.

Stay at: Easington House (01295 270181)

Why? With a history of illustrious owners before it became a guesthouse, Easington House offers comfortable country accommodation within walking distance of Banbury town centre.

Banbury – it’s part cool town with hi-tech companies, part old-world community with a history that is commemorated in nursery rhymes and legends. Whichever Banbury you’ve come to see – the lady on the white horse, the canal boats and museum, or the fast cars, folding bikes and cutting edge aerospace technology, the locals are proud of it. The M40 motorway takes you past the headquarters of racing car and engineering company Prodrive; the canal brings you to the gleaming glass and zinc of Castle Quay, built on the site of an old castle; the cross country roads bring you to Banbury cross and the statue of a fine lady upon a white horse.

Old Banbury retains its charm, though many of the medieval buildings were lost in the Civil War. The Georgian and Victorian streets are filled with independent shops, while the outskirts are full of thriving enterprises. History is writ large – the town was once home to the largest cattle market in Europe and Tooley’s boatyard, where narrowboats and barges are still repaired and serviced, is the oldest inland waterway dry dock in the country, dating back to 1778. Banbury Museum has a glass bridge walkway and its and galleries and exhibits are as much about Oxford Canal as they are about local history. Banbury was once known for plush, the velvet-like material, and a 1000 local people were employed in its manufacture. These days the big employer is Jacobs Douwe Egberts, the world’s largest coffee processing facility.

The 21st century statue of a fine lady on a white horse is another of Banbury’s focal points. It was proposed as an honour for the Queen’s golden jubilee in 2002, and finally erected in 2005. The fairytale moated Broughton Castle, three miles outside town, has been owned by the Fiennes family for 600 years – Celia Fiennes is the “fine lady” on the horse, it’s believed. The castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens, open in summer between 2-5pm on Wednesdays, Sundays and some bank holidays. (broughtoncastle.com)

Most noted for... Banbury Cross, a landmark of legend and nursery rhyme. The original crosses were destroyed by puritans, and the present-day cross is a Victorian addition to the town.

While you’re here... visit The Mill arts centre. It has a full schedule of summer shows including music, comedy, dance, theatre and films as well as exhibitions in the gallery space.

But try not to... eat too much Banbury cake. This local delicacy is made to a recipe that dates back to a least 1586.

Who’s who

Chef-entrepreneur Gordon Ramsay learnt the basics of cooking at Banbury College, before developing his stellar career in London and the United States. Anthony Burgess, who wrote the cult classic A Clockwork Orange, taught at Banbury Grammar School in the 1950s. Entertainer Larry Grayson was born in Banbury and other famous former residents include X-ray pioneer Richard Reynolds, poet and topographer Alfred Beesley, and circus owner Dick Chipperfield. Distinguished visitors include American polymath and inventor Benjamin Franklin. Notable living locals include Conservative party politician Lord Michael Heseltine, rally car racer turned motor company boss David Richards and television presenter John Craven.

Music

Croprody, the festival that celebrates the music of Fairport Convention, takes place just outside Banbury in August. And one of the biggest events in Banbury’s calendar is the annual folk festival, held in autumn.

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