Interesting historical facts about Banbury

The Town Name

The name Banbury is derived from ‘Banna’ the Saxon chieftain who is said to have built a stockade (a wooden defense to protect) in the 6th century and ‘burgh’ meaning settlement. The historical name for Banbury was ‘Banesberie’ which appeared in the Domesday Book.


Banbury Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms bears the town’s motto ‘Dominus nobis sol et scutum’ meaning the Lord is our Sun and Shield.

The castle and the crossed swords recalls the important part that Banbury Castle (built from 1135) played in the Civil War when two great sieges took place in 1644 and 1646. It has since been destroyed.

Above the shield is a helmet surrounded by the conventional flowing ‘mantling’ which was worn in tournaments to protect the helmet from the weather and to smother the opponents thrusts.

On the crest sits a ‘fine lady upon a white horse’ from the famous nursery rhyme “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross”. She is wearing Tudor costume to commemorate Mary Tudor who granted the town’s first charter.

Either side of the Fine Lady are two scrolls that commemorate the royal charters granted the town. The red oxen refer to the county of Oxfordshire and Banbury’s historic cattle market.

Banbury Cross

Banbury had many crosses including The High Cross, The Bread Cross and the White Cross, but these were all destroyed by the Puritans in 1600’s.

It was more than 250 years later in 1859 that the current Banbury Cross was erected to celebrate the wedding of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, the Princess Royal to Prince Frederick of Prussia. The Cross was installed in 1914 with three statues of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V to celebrate the coronation of the latter in 1911.

The cross also includes different arms of the town throughout its history, along with the town’s motto ‘Dominus nobis sol et scutum’ (The Lord is our Sun and Shield). The current Cross currently sits at the junction of the Horse Fair, West Bar Street, High Street and South Bar Street.

The Fine Lady

In 2005 the ‘Fine Lady on a White Horse’ monument was unveiled by Princess Anne with a local crowd watching.  Made of bronze and mounted on a plinth of local Hornton stone, the statue stands beside Banbury Cross.

The Nursery Rhyme

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes.

Possible candidates for the fine lady are Queen Elizabeth I, Lady Godiva and Fiennes of Broughton Castle, but there is no corroborative evidence to support any of these cases.

A ‘cock horse’ is an additional horse to assist pulling a cart or carriage up a hill (Banbury has many!). In more current times, it also means a pretend hobbyhorse for children.

The Banbury Cross would have either referred to one of the previous crosses (as the rhyme predates the current cross) or it may simply relate to the crossroads where it stands.

Banbury Cakes

Banbury is known for its famous Banbury Cakes, originally baked in Banbury by Edward Welchman, whose shop was on Parsons Street. The cake is similar to an Eccles cake but oval-shaped.

The Banbury cake is puff pastry with a succulent filling made of the best ingredients: Vostizza currants, other fruits, spices and natural flavourings. The pastry is then sprinkled with sugar before it is baked. For more information about these well loved pastries visit Banbury Cakes.

Banbury has a long, interesting history with some areas dating back around 200BC.
A detailed history of Banbury can be found here.