FROM SCRATCHWOOD TO WYCHWOOD

Ride a Cock Horse

the cross? That's what Banbury's famous for. You know-

Ride a Cock Horse
To Banbury Cross
To see a Fine Lady
On a White Horse
Rings on her Fingers
And Bells on her Toes
And she shall have Music
Wherever she goes
- that cross.

Well, if we trudge up the curving High Street (the car safely perched on top of the multi-storey car park - an essential fashion accessory for the modern English town), there it is, and damned unimpressive it is.

This fussy gothic confection doesn't deserve a mention in a serious historical document like a nursery rhyme. There is a whiff of fraud here.

A little bit of research (in the Tourist Information Office opposite) reveals that this is indeed a Victorian (1859) erection, built to celebrate the marriage of the Princess Royal to the Prince of Prussia, and finished only eighteen months too late for the event.

It seems to have been a controversial undertaking in the first place. A lot of people wanted to blow the money on a good night out, but mid-nineteenth century worthies will have their way. They did keep quiet, though, when people started bumping into it at night, (it's in the middle of the street) requiring the erection of two lights to aid navigation.

Originally, in late mediæval Banbury, there were probably three or four Banbury crosses. Where, exactly, nobody knows for sure, but the Banbury Historical Society carries on a spirited debate about that. The current feeling is that the cross they're all talking about, the High Cross, was down by the Market place - just in front of where that sub-Palladian shopping centre is now.

One of the few hard facts known is that on 26th July, 1600, the High Cross was destroyed by a band of puritans, who objected to the idolatry implied by the structure.

Banbury Banbury River Cherwell River Cherwell
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