Banbury has placed itself in the history books, and that’s not just with the nursery rhyme. Explore the market town to find out how it has contributed to this country’s cuisine, Civil War, and even the creation of its closest ally.
Banbury Cross and Museum
Banbury used to have three crosses: the High Cross, the Bread Cross, and the White Cross. But in the year 1600, they were destroyed by Puritans in an effort to remove Catholicism from the area. It wasn’t until 1859, nearly 260 years later, that Banbury would get another cross, which was to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s eldest child, Princess Victoria. This 16-metre-high cross is a stone, spire-shaped monument that has remained a significant centre-point of the town ever since.
Located by the Oxford Canal, the Banbury Museum displays the rich history of the town. This includes the English Civil War, Victorian Banbury, the creation of the Oxford Canal, and Tooley’s Boatyard, the oldest working dry dock in Britain. If you would like to visit the boatyard, then you can only do so via a guided tour. The museum was designed by ECD Architects of London, who won the architectural design competition launched by Cherwell District Council.
The family home of Lord and Lady Saye and Sele, which has remained in their family since 1447, is just under a 3-mile drive from Banbury, making it a perfect spot to visit while in the area.
Each room in this historic house has its own story. The Oak Room, featured in the films “Jane Eyre” and “Shakespeare in Love”, was added in the 16th century, and boasts a grand stone fireplace below a large painting of Charles II. The carpet found in the Gallery, which features family portraits from the 16th century through to the 19th century, was given to the house by the production company for the film “Three Men and a Little Lady” as it was made especially for the scene. The King’s Chamber has beautiful hand-painted wallpaper from China made in the year 1800 and has been used by King James I in 1604 and Edward VII in 1901, then Prince of Wales. The gatehouse has had many adjustments and repairs over the years, especially in 1655 after they were damaged during the siege of the castle during the English Civil War by Royalists.
Not only does Broughton Castle have a really interesting house, it also has a very stunning garden. The Ladies Garden was created in the 1890’s by Lady Algernon Gordon-Lennox when she lived in Broughton, which has some of the most beautiful flowers you will see during your time in Oxfordshire.
Open days for April and May 2023 are currently available on the Broughton Castle website, with the ones for June and July releasing on 14th May and the ones for August and September releasing 14th July.
Built by the ancestors of the first president of the United States, Sulgrave Manor is a place packed with history and knowledge about the creation of the USA and its special relationship with the UK. Opened to the public in 1921, Sulgrave Manor was saved from ruin by American and British donors, who funded the repairs in honour of 100 years of peace between the two countries.
Inside the Manor, explore the path that George Washington took on becoming president and you can even have a look at some of his personal belongings. There is also an interactive experience of playing old board games in the Great Hall, dressing up like a Tudor and grinding spices in the Kitchen, which really helps to immerse yourself in what life would have been like for Washington’s ancestors.
There are many different artifacts in the Manor including antique furniture, textiles and art that showcase the journey the house has taken through the different ages. Many of these were donated from both countries, which displays the continued friendship between the two nations.
The house opens on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays from 10:30am to 4pm, with the last day being 31st October, so make sure to plan when you’re going to visit in advance and book on their website.
Banbury Cake & Coffee
Banbury boasts the world’s largest coffee-processing facility, owned by JDE Peet’s, which was built in 1964. The factory is sometimes still called General Foods as it was owned by the American company before getting taken over by Kraft Foods, and then joined Mondelez International when Kraft split.
It is not only coffee that Banbury is famous for. The infamous Banbury Cake, a spiced and currant-filled, oval-shaped pastry, was once as common to have with afternoon tea as scones for those in Banbury. While it’s popularity may have waned, it is still worth giving one a try, with the Cake Box on Castle Quay being highly recommended.
If you’re planning a trip to Banbury, you’ll enjoy a great day of history and culture. Don’t make the mistake of driving past.