We have just had a wonderful time here in Banbury. We hosted a day out for the Boaters Christian Fellowship South Eastern Region. We had a very good day with excellent weather.
So many boaters come to Banbury and moor at Castle Quay or other town centre mooring and visit one of the many eating places in the town, do some shopping in the many national chain shops or sample some of the local ale and then move on. Not many, it seemed to me, appreciate the history of the town, steeped as it is in heritage. It has changed daily over the two thousand years of its history and the settlement of people in the iron age at what was the crossroads of Britain.
Many would put other places as the 'the middle of England'. Being as far from the sea as you can get is claimed by several villages around. Not many of them have developed like Banbury has. In 2001 it was the fastest growing conurbation in the country reputedly creating more jobs than there were applicants to fill them. Now, we have a new population joining in from all over Europe, the middle East and Asia.
We walked around the town and saw the remnants of the architecture of times past. Demolition of the old and its replacement by the new has been the way for Banbury since the seventeenth century when the castle was demolished to provide stone for re-building a war ravaged town. The St Mary's church half fell down and was half blown up in 1797 to be replaced by the present building and another fine church was demolished as late as the 1960s. The town to the south of the bridge was flattened about the same time and new apartments have risen from the rubble. Town centre churches have become shops and schools have become Estate Agencies and offices. The present Town Hall replaced another close to "Old Town Hall Wharf which is now a residential development squeezed between printing words and a car wash.
We all now appreciate the canalside developments with the dichotemy of eighteenth century Tooley's Boatyard and Dry Dock over shadowed by the 21st century Museum Bridge.
The 48 iron mongers referred to in Tom Rolt's "Narrowboat" have all gone now; the 28 inns, some referenced in Sheila Stewarts "Ramlin Rose", are under pressure; the five breweries that were the second largest employer in 1900 have all gone; there are none of the eight wharf businesses and three basins; no timber yards or saw mills, no textile or woollen mills;no malthouses; the corn mill is an Arts Centre and there is only one of the three huge foundries left. It all adds up to a huge amount of change.
Banbury is more than the destination of a nursery rhyme horse woman. It is more than a view of the cross and a visit to McDonalds. When you come to this crossroads of Britain, stay a while and appreciate a town changed by the coming of the canal, deeply affected by the demise of freight traffic on it but responding to the new challenge of the slow leisure traffic on the canal and the rush of life fuelled by the M40.
2 hours ago