The Company of Flying Stationers
used the nineteenth century to bring aid and comfort to the middle classes. The town became famous for plush, that velvety fabric which upholstered and curtained Victorian England. At its peak, the Banbury plush industry supplied seventy percent of the nation's needs; and where would Victorian Britain have been without the stuff? It provided those heavy drapes of respectability, behind which the Victorian Values of hypocrisy, selfishness and sexual repression could burgeon.
But not in front of the children, who were probably improving themselves with some of the first books printed for children, by J.G.Rusher, of Banbury.
Expanding the family's printing business, he produced little cheap books for the newly literate children of the lower middle-classes. His most popular lines were collections of nursery rhymes, which is why everyone knows "Ride a Cock Horse..." today. Rusher's aggressive travelling salesmen were known, rather splendidly, as The Company of Flying Stationers.
Whether these salesmen explained the probable true meaning of the rhyme is doubtful. It seems to have been connected with an old pagan fertility rite, featuring garlands, pre-Freudian maypoles, and a maiden (but not for long) on a white horse. Very pagan.