Having spend quite a bit of time exploring Banbury on our recent cruise, I thought I’d pass on a few things to look out for, all within walking distance from the canal.
First the stuff you already half know about.
Well of course there’s Banbury Cross. Not having a cock horse we walked up that way. Some people never get that far, but if you can manage to walk past Wetherspoons in High Street without going in, you’ll be at the cross in half a minute. Banbury used to have three crosses, used as places of pilgrimage until 1600 when the puritans demolished them. The current one is Victorian and is a typical Victorian gothic edifice. Perhaps a bit more exciting is the statue of “A fine lady on her cock horse” just over the road.
Another place rescued from architectural vandalism is the Globe Room at the back of the Reine Deer Inn. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this lovely old room where Olly Cromwell is said to have planned the battle of Edgehill is that it survives at all! In 1810 the brewery tried to flog it off to Americans or whoever, but a campaign, which seems to have gone national, fought the sale, then some of the oak panels and windows were sold, only to be bought back again. It’s a good yarn and you can read the story here. Or you can visit the pub and have your meal in there.
Then of course there are Banbury cakes which you can buy in some of the bakery shops. Pretty much like Eccles cakes but more oval and having a touch more spice. The recipe goes back to 1586 they say.
Now stuff you might not know about.
Turn right (North) at Banbury cross and walk a couple of hundred yards up Horsefair (A361) and have a butchers at St Mary’s Church, it’s well worth it.
We’ve walked past it a few times before, but this time, we went in. Wow!
Not yer typically English church is it? Does it look Italian or am I wrong? Except perhaps for those lovely box pews According to the two ladies who were looking after the place when we went in, the organ is a belter and when the place is full at Christmas the atmosphere and the sound is great. Well, not quite full, because the Fire regulations won’t let anyone sit forward of that pillar you can see in the middle of the upper seats. It’s the same the other side.We thought it was perhaps because of the weight, but no, it’s because there is only one small exit door to the stairs. Anyhow, well worth looking in.
Then lastly, right next to the canal to the south of the town centre, comes a smell familiar and evocative to anyone who has ever been involved in iron casting. Mmmm I love it. The Swan Foundry. You can’t go in for a look so you just have to peer across the canal at the moulding cases and smell the burnt sand. Foundries are fascinating places but a health and safety nightmare I would think. The interesting thing is that although this foundry is primarily involved in iron mouldings, they also have a facility (whether here in Banbury or not, I can’t tell) for making propellers.
But don’t get excited folks, look closely and you’ll see these wouldn’t fit a narrowboat, for it seems these propellers are for model boats only. High precision things made by the lost wax process. However, if you’re thinking of making a working model boat, look ‘em up here. It looks like they’re the biz.