A

Ark of the Covenant

According to the Bible, the legendary Ark of the Covenant was a strange, powerful and sentient golden chest that contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments. If it ever existed at all, it would be one of the most extraordinary artifacts in history. It could radiate divine fire, level city walls, destroy entire armies and even manifest the voice and presence of God. It disappeared from history in 597 BC and many scholars, archaeologists and adventurers (even Indiana Jones, of course) have spent lifetimes searching for the last resting place of the Ark, but until now its secret hiding place has remained one of history’s most enduring mysteries.

In his book The Templar’s and the Ark of the Covenant, author Graham Phillips claims that the Knights Templar from Herdewyke brought the ark to England following their defeat by the Saracens in the 12th century. In the 14th century they built what is now All Saints Church in Burton Dassett to carry on their devotions within the area and also encode clues to the whereabouts of the ancient relics they possessed.

A stained glass window made in the 1800s by local antiquarian Jacob Cove-Jones for nearby Langley chapel, is said to condense this information and provide the hidden location of the treasures…

B

Beckham, David

A couple of the most famous sporting and celebrity & fashion faces in the world, grace Banburyshire with their presence as their family take ownership of their new purpose-built home in the area. The lure of the Cotswolds and the surrounding scenic countryside with it’s relative anonymity, seem to have won over the Beckhams who have decided to move to our neighbourhood. Perhaps they’ve been swayed by the many local village pubs, fishing holes, clay pigeon ranges and rolling countryside. They’re not the only ones either, plenty of A-listers live in or frequent the areas of Banburyhsire near the Cotswolds.

Burgess, Anthony

The enigmatic writer and playwright Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, lived for a short while in Adderbury whilst he was employed as an English teacher at Banbury Grammar School (later to become Banbury School). In 1961 he published a controversial novel based on his time there, called The Worm and the Ring, featuring characters representing the Norse gods of ancient myth. But the tale twists into a real-life scandal when a fictional character could be recognised as Gwendoline Bustin, who as the secretary of the school at the time, brought a libel case against him due to improper representation. The publisher Heinemann agreed to amend all unsold copies of the book but actually pulped them to avoid any copies getting into public hands.

C

Crouch Hill

Sitting high above Banbury town is the conical shaped Crouch Hill which gives stunning views across the area. The name Crouch relates to the Celtic word crug, meaning a hill. Its steeper top section is artificial and built by hand, possibly in Iron Age times. The hill was once the site of the Bishop of Lincoln’s deer park and was also occupied by both roundhead forces and royalist cavalry in 1644 during the English Civil War.

It was an important site for May Day celebrations when the community came together bringing garlands of flowers to mark the change of the seasons and watch the children dance around a maypole. The central figure of May Day is the Earth Goddess, represented by the May Queen seated on her symbolic white horse. Another pagan custom whereby young men and woman would meet up during the May sunrise for ‘merry-making’ and honouring the regenerative power of the earth, still had some relevance at the dawn of the twentieth century. Today there is a ring of 25 oak trees planted on the eastern side to mark the Battle of Trafalgar. A path runs around and over it connecting to the Salt Way Roman road below on the western side.

In one local legend it is claimed that the hill was spontaneously created by ‘Old Nick’ (see D…)

D

Dancing (Morris)

Morris dancing (evolved from Moorish dancing) is a medieval tradition that continues in specific areas in the UK every springtime. Adderbury is well known Morris village with as many as three sides still dancing. The Adderbury tradition has become popular with groups of dancers from as far away as the United States, Australia and India. Once a year both the Adderbury Morris Men and the Adderbury Village Morris teams come together with other guest sides, for a “Day of Dance” throughout the village, merrily waving handkerchiefs, clashing sticks and ringing bells.

Devilish Mischief

A 14th century legend curiously mentions that the Devil, also known as ‘Old Nick’ in times past, lent a hand in building the three grand churches of Bloxham, Adderbury and Kings Sutton alongside masons that never rested or accepted payment for their work. During the construction of St. Marys in Bloxham one of them accidentally slipped and dropped some of the mortar he was carrying thus creating Crouch Hill, which stands today overlooking Banbury. Once the churches were complete, the mason suddenly disappeared leaving a pungent odour of sulphur in the air. The other masons realised they’d been working with a mischievous conspirator… Old Nick himself!

E

Ermont & Hennef

In 1978, Banbury Town Mayor Ron Smith formed a committee to help create ‘twin town’ status with towns in France and Germany. In the early 1980s, Twinning Agreements were made with the towns of Ermont & Hennef. Thereafter, relations and community cooperation blossomed rapidly, and organisations representing sport, music, art, drama and schools, as well as many individuals from all three towns, have been involved in numerous visits and exchanges which continue to this day.

Eyes

At Blenheim Palace, if you stand at the main entrance under the Portico and look upwards you’ll see six huge surreal eyes staring right back at you; three coloured blue and three brown. Why? Well they were painted by artist Colin Gill in 1928 based on strict instructions from the beautiful and eccentric Gladys Deacon, also known as the Duchess of Marlborough who lived there at the turn of the twentieth century. The blue eyes are said to belong to her, yet we don’t know who the brown eye’s are based on. They all have what looks like golden Sun rays beaming outwards. It’s a small but intriguing mystery. She’s also honoured as a very odd winged lion sphinx sculpture in the gardens, with her head and a very elongated neck.

F

F-111

For a generation growing up in Banburyshire, the screeching sound of General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark supersonic bombers, was a constant presence in the skies. Based at Upper Heyford near Bicester, the various USAF tactical squadrons trained over the extended area, with the low-altitude strike plane being put to use in many conflicts from the 1960s through to the 1990s.

Although many people may disapprove at the presence of war machines in our skies, we must remember that the dedicated service personnel helped keep nations safe in the face of a real nuclear threat. As strange as it sounds, some people miss the roar of the afterburners as they screamed through the skies, sometimes skimming just above the rooftops of Banbury. The sound of the F-111 was included on NASA’s Voyager Golden record along with other sounds from nature and man.

At that time Banbury and Bicester had a significant population of US nationals that brought with them their hospitality, warmth, huge cars and exciting American cuisine. With the closure of USAF Upper Heyford in 1994, most personnel were relocated away from the area. The former base near Bicester has now been given over to housing developers on which two new parishes will be built.

G

Globe Room

Situated on Parsons Street in the Old Town heart of Banbury is Ye Olde Reindeer Inn, an atmospheric but modestly sized 16th century pub with bags of character and history. It is said Oliver Cromwell planned the English Civil War’s Battle of Edgehill in the pub’s decadent wood-panelled Globe Room, which was also used as a courtroom to try members of the Royalist army. He also stayed there while laying siege to the now destroyed Banbury Castle in 1644-66.

Yet in the early years of the 20th century, the Globe Room was expected to be sold and moved to a new location away from it’s historic roots, as American investors sought to buy up the room as a curious relic that was not appreciated by the townsfolk of the time. Edward Browne of Astrop, near Banbury wrote to the editor of the Banbury Guardian and castigated Alfred Beesley, author of the well known History of Banbury for his failure to support the preservation of key features in the town. Instead of condemning American interest in the Globe Room, he welcomed their efforts by saying “I heartily applaud that spirit of acquiring everything of beauty, rarity and artistic merit“. The editor replied with “Banbury cares nought for these things (in today’s terms iconic features] and remain only with its cakes and ale“. It was even offered to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The room was taken away and stored during WWI but was restored 1984 after spending time in London’s Olympia exhibition centre and Banbury’s Library and Museum in 1966. Today the Hook Norton Brewery owns and runs the Ye Olde Reindeer Inn as it did at the turn of the century, serving their distinct and world famous ales to visitors from across the world.

H

Hook Norton Brewery

Hook Norton Brewery beers can now been found all around the world, especially with the boom in traditional and craft beer drinking. The iconic brewery and its estate stand proud in the village of Hook Norton, perpetually producing the golden and brown ales that delight so many drinkers and beer aficionados. It features a museum that also shows the history of the village which has been tied to the industry for over a hundred and sixty years.

In 1849, a 52 acre farm was bought by John Harris who transformed it into a brewery, with commercial brewing starting in 1856. The first beer was brew No.1 also known as ‘Mild XXX’. In 1887 the brewery started an enthusiastic building programme doubling it’s size, with a steam engine installed twelve years later which is believed to be one of the last steam engines in the country still in use for its original purpose. The shire-horse drawn dray still makes it ways round Banburyshire, delivering the kegs to pubs and hotels – a sight which can’t help but transport you back in time.

The beers produced by the brewery regularly win awards from around the world, with the go-to beer ‘Hooky’ being judged as the best beer in the world by The Independent newspaper in 2010, but in 2017 ‘Red Rye’ was crowned the UK’s Best Rye Beer at the World Beer Awards, before going one better to be crowned the World’s Best Rye Beer, a feat it also achieved in 2015! If you’re frequenting any pub around Banburyshire then it’s very probable that you’ll be able to sample these fine beers for yourself.

I

Ironstone Quarrying

From 1919 until the 1960s, northern Banburyshire was an important area for quarrying ironstone, which is a sedimentary rock that contains a significant proportion of an iron compound from which iron can be extracted via the process of smelting. Some of the areas that had these deposits are Wroxton, Drayton, Balscote, Hornton, Hook Norton and also Burton Dassett where the remains of excavations create such character in its county park. The rich seam of ironstone stretched up the country towards Lincolnshire.

The Oxfordshire Ironstone Railway was a mineral railway that linked a quarry near Wroxton with the Great Western Railway at a junction just north of Banbury. It operated between 1917 and 1919 but was closed in 1967, with the remnants of the old track still visible – and in some places walkable. The nearby quarries were heavily worked during the Second World War. At one point the line also served Banbury’s aluminium processing plant, Alcan, which has now been closed down after being a large industrial presence within the town for generations. Banbury’s Ruscote, Hardwick and Hanwell Fields housing estates are also built over a large part of its route, including most of the former Pin Hill farm grading works, close to where the Jacobs Douwe Egberts coffee factory now stands.

Buildings built with the red-rich ironstone – sometimes called Marlstone – can be seen across Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds (not to be confused with Cotswold stone which is more yellow). A great example is Oxford’s hugely impressive Christ Church Meadow Building.

J

John Wilkins

John Wilkins, (1614–1672) was an Anglican clergyman, natural philosopher, scientist and author, and was one of the founders of the Royal Society. It is thought he was born at Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire, though some sources say Fawsley to the south of Daventry. Wilkins is one of the few persons to have headed a college at both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. In 1656, he married Robina French née Cromwell, youngest sister of Oliver Cromwell. His grandfather John Dodd was a vicar at Hanwell who often preached at Banbury.

His scientific achievements include a plan for mechanical space travel, the popularisation of astronomy, the possible creation of a universal language, cryptographic coding and also the feasibility of underwater travel by submarine. Early works such as The Discovery of a World in the Moone was followed up by A Discourse Concerning a New Planet. He highlighted the similarities between the Earth and the Moon and based on this he proposed the idea that the Moon would house living beings called the ‘Selenites’, and he also considered the problems of travel to the Moon including overcoming the gravitational pull of the Earth, the coldness of space and what the ‘sky voyagers’ would eat during a journey that he thought would take about 180 days. In 1641 Wilkins published an anonymous treatise entitled Mercury, or The Secret and Swift Messenger, the first English book on cryptography, proposing binary coding systems using bells of different tones and, more spectacularly a musket shot for ‘0’ and a cannon shot for ‘1’.

K

King’s Men

Oxfordshire’s (and to a lesser extent Warwickshire’s) own little Stonehenge; a mysterious neolithic stone circle where it is said that the Norwegian King Rollo was crowned. The site is accessible and open to the public but for a small fee at peak times to help with the continual upkeep of the stones and surrounding area. There is a certain magic to the enclosure where the King’s Men stones stand battered and bruised by history, all pitted and weathered by the elements at the the top of a hill that stands at the edge of the Cotswold hills. It’s fun to count the stones and see if you get the same number the next time you count (72 is this editor’s recurring number).

The King’s Men name comes from the legend of a travelling royal army being literally petrified by a witch who cryptically challenges them by saying “Seven long strides shalt thou take and if Long Compton thou canst see, King of England thou shalt be”. On the king’s seventh stride an earth mound rose up obscuring his view so failing his task, the witch turned them all to stone. The king became the King Stone which is in an adjacent field, his army became the King’s Men and his knights became the Whispering Knights which is a portal dolmen structure further down the hill. The witch became an elder tree, supposedly still somewhere in the nearby hedges, which if cut breaks the spell and the stones will miraculously come back to life.

L

Library Phone Box

An old red BT phone box was controversially transformed into a mini community library, after resident and art teacher Tom Christy installed shelves for books with the idea that passers-by would borrow and return them, adding more books over time. British Telecom blocked the idea but after a successful campaign by residents and councillors, they agreed to install a second working phone box next to it. A great example of community spirit all round.

Leamington Spa 😀

A study undertaken by the house moving website Rightmove had concluded that Royal Leamington Spa is actually the happiest place to live in the UK. Right on the north western boundary of Banburyshire, the regency ‘resort’ trumped places such as Richmond-upon-Thames, Harrogate and Royal Tunbridge Wells to take the top spot, with the questionnaire taking in factors such as community spirit, feeling safe, the friendliness of locals, the amenities, spending wealth and local services. We’d happily agree that Leamington really does have a feel-good factor, with its luscious community parks, tropical gardens, spa baths and River Leam adding to the independent spirit that can be seen across the town.

It is easily and quickly reached from Banbury via the M40 or the next stop 20 minutes north by train. If you’re travelling by car and cars are your thing, then you could combine the trip with a stop at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon, situated half way between the towns.

M

Motorsport

Banburyshire, Oxfordshire and it’s neighbouring county of Northamptonshire has many motorsport and motoring heritage links. In Banbury itself there is the American owned Haas team that took over the premises of the former Marussia/Manor teams, which sits right next door to World Rally Championship winners Prodrive, the team that dominated the championship throughout the 1990s. The Renault F1 team moved to Enstone near Chipping Norton in 1993 before Michael Schumacher won titles in 1994 & 1995 under the Benetton name.

Of course the Silverstone circuit is a short drive to the east, past Brackley where Lewis Hamilton’s current F1 driver and constructors champions Mercedes take up residence. The circuit was home to the now defunct Jordan and Midland teams before Force India found a home there.

Between 1992 and 1994, Jaguar produced the legendary 200mph+ XJ220 supercar on the Broughton Road towards Bloxham, which in turn became the premises of Aston Martin before they moved to their home in Gaydon alongside Land Rover and the British Motor Museum. Further south in Oxford is the BMW plant which took over the former site of Morris Motors, Austin Motors and Rover to produce the new MINI and it’s forthcoming electric model.

For classic car enthusiasts, Bicester Heritage which is situated within a beautiful 348 acre former WW2 RAF Bomber Training Station, is the UK’s first business campus dedicated to historic motoring and aviation. Comprising of a cluster of industry leading specialists, Bicester Heritage delivers a unique experience by providing an ecosystem of skills and businesses geared towards the historic motoring market.

N

Noel’s House Party

It’s very tenuous and not often remembered, but the stately home featured in the opening titles of Noel’s 1990s hit TV show was actually Broughton Castle, located just outside Banbury. The house has been the backdrop for a handful of tv shows and movies down the years mainly due to it’s old-world charm and classic English countryside setting.

Productions include Three Men and a Little Lady, Shakespeare In Love and Wolf Hall. We have seen first hand what it is like to spend a day amongst the lights, cameras and energy of a film shoot at Broughton Castle as part of Stephen Poliakoff’s production Friends and Crocodiles starring Damien Lewis.

Oxford of course has featured in many TV shows and movies that make use of its globally renowned setting and classical architecture; Inspector Morse, Dr Strange and the Harry Potter movies among others, with the wonderful Blenheim Palace just up the road used as the location for blockbusters such as Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Spectre and Transformers: The Last Knight.

O

Olympics

In around 1612, many centuries after the last original ancient Olympic Games took place, a lawyer named Robert Dover had an idea to revive the Olympic spirit of togetherness and competitiveness on a hill in Chipping Campden just to the west of Banburyshire. This hill is now known as Dover’s Hill and is owned by the National Trust. With the approval of King James, Dover’s motivation in organising the Cotswold Olimpick Games (spelled the old fashioned way), held during the week of Whitsun, may have been his belief that physical exercise was necessary for the defence of the realm, but he may also have been attempting to bring rich and poor together as the Games were attended by all classes of society, including royalty on one occasion.

Most of the events featured activities such as athletics, throwing, jumping, wrestling, horse racing along with side-shows of music, eating, drinking and gambling. Of course the nascent Puritan population took offence to the celebratory aspects of the games and demanded it be outlawed. Once the English Civil War took hold then the games ceased to take place. The Games were revived for the 1951 Festival of Britain and continue on and off to this day. The British Olympic Association, in its successful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, recognised Dover’s Games as “the first stirrings of Britain’s Olympic beginnings”.

A book called the Annalia Dubrensa (Annals of Dover) and alternatively called The Book of the Games was the collation of a series of semi-political pamphlets published in 1636 to generate interest and exposure to the games. Written by well known contributors such as Michael Drayton, Ben Jonson, Thomas Randolph and Thomas Heywood, it is essentially an anthology of poems written especially for the games along with previous works that fitted the atmosphere and ethos of the games. You can read and download the book here…

P

Presidents & Prime Ministers

Banburyshire has it’s fair share of connections to important and powerful people through the ages. Sulgrave Manor to the east of Banbury is the family home of the United State’s founding father George Washington, built by Lawrence Washington, his five times great grandfather, in the 1500s. The family of the President’s right hand man, Benjamin Franklin comes from Ecton a little further away in Northampton. Franklin’s father Josiah worked in Banbury and his father Thomas is buried at the town’s St. Mary’s Church which Benjamin Franklin visited in 1758. Unfortunately his grave stone is now lost to the ravages of time.

Frederick North, known as Lord North lived at Wroxton Abbey and was the constituent MP for Banbury. He later became Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1770 to 1782, during which he led the country through most of the American War of Independence – which he ultimately lost of course. He was related to Samuel Pepys the diarist and Samuel Pepys Cockerell who designed St. Mary’s Church.

Winston Churchill was born at his family home of Blenheim Palace, he proposed to his future wife in it’s gardens and also has his final resting place in neighbouring Bladon. Not too far away from Woodstock is the former Prime Minister David Cameron’s home of Witney. Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States and a  long time admirer of Churchill, visited Blenheim Palace in July 2018 as part of a tour of Europe, where he had dinner and talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Q

Queens and Princesses

Just who the ‘Fine Lady’ of Ride a Cock Horse nursery rhyme fame was based on is still the subject of speculation; some saying she was Queen Elizabeth I or even Lady Godiva, Countess of Mercia. Some say she is based on Rhiannon the ancient Horse Goddess; a divine queen of the spirit world.  It’s clear that we’ll never truly know, but that’s what makes the legend a little more mysterious.

In 2005 the Princess Royal unveiled the Fine Lady statue designed by Artcycle, giving the proceedings an air of regality, but just opposite the Fine Lady is Banbury Cross, erected in 1859 to commemorate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, another Princess Royal. Within the cross itself stands a statue of Queen Victoria.

Banbury celebrated the 400th anniversary of its town charter in 2008 which was marked with a visit by Queen Elizabeth II, who greeted Banbury residents in and around the Town Hall. In 1995 she visited the Ditchley Foundation near Charlbury, which furthers communication and diplomacy between Britain and America.

Four years previously in 1991, Diana Princess of Wales also greeted people in the town centre after visiting the Katharine House Hospice, Queensway School, Broughton Castle and the Jaguar car factory.

R

Red Kite

Red Kites are a magnificently graceful bird of prey that has successfully been re-introduced to England and Scotland by the RSPB. With their reddy-brown feathers and huge wingspan of up to 2 metres, the birds can be seen circling and swooping to catch their prey in increasing numbers. Spanish Red Kites were released into the Chilterns area but can now be found over the greater portion of the UK. A great spot to witness them in flight is at Crouch Hill and the Salt Way area of Bodicote. They can also be seen along the A4260 south of Banbury towards Woodstock and Kidlington.

Red Horse

The Red Horse of Tysoe was a hillside figure carved into the deep red earth near Tysoe, just around the corner from Edgehill village. The Earl of Warwick commissioned this as a monument to his horse in the Battle of Towston, Yorkshire. It was rediscovered by Kenneth Carrus and Graham Miller in the 1960s. Unfortunately this no longer remains due to the encroaching foliage of Sunrising/Spring Hill, but there is aerial and resistive survey evidence that it existed. It’s thought there’s also another carving nearby at The Hangings with various attempts to cut both of these at different times.

S

Space & Astronomy

Banburyshire has one of the UK’s leading space and technology education centres; Space Studio Banbury. It is the first Academy school dedicated to the science, technology and maths involved in space exploration. Trips have already been made to CERN, NASA and Aston Martin along with meeting an Olympian, so if your child wants to be an astronaut when he/she grows up (and who doesn’t?), then this is the place to make their dreams come true. If they’re looking to push their own boundaries when it comes to maths and science and aspires to be one of the next generation of industrial leaders and pioneers, then this is the school for them.

Just north of Banbury is the Hanwell Community Observatory where an experienced and dedicated group of volunteers and engineers meet up for a spot of stargazing on their three telescopes. They also promote astronomy in the community helping to make astronomy accessible to all, as well as welcoming public and school groups to star parties and other events that will open up the Heavens and the wonders of the cosmos.

T

Travels (Gulliver’s)

In 1726, Irish writer and clergyman Jonathon Swift wrote the enigmatic and controversial tale of a man voyaging to the strange land of Lilliput, where he was held captive by a race of 6″ tall beings. Gulliver’s Travels was published as a religious and political satire on human nature and “to vex the world rather than divert it“. Swift was inspired to name his antihero Gulliver as in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Banbury, a small plaque reads;

Gulliver’s Travels

Johnathon (sic) Swift’s preface to readers in the first edition of his famous Gulliver’s Travels 1726, remarks “I have observed in the church yard at Banbury several tombs and monuments of the Gulliver’s”.

The original tombstones no longer exist. A later one bearing this old Banbury name lies near to this plaque.

U

U.F.O.s & The Unexplained

You might not realise this but Banburyshire is a bonafide hotspot for strange and unexplained happenings such as U.F.O. sightings! No doubt some of these can be put down as partaking in too much ‘Old Hooky’, but there are stranger things happening nonetheless. Along with U.F.O.s there have been sightings of unexplained flashes and fire in the sky, (as described by a woman taking her children to school near Edgehill), ball lightning and even ‘full torso apparitions’ in the same area. Around Christmas time in 1642 there were so many sightings by the villagers of Kineton, of a roaring, ghostly battle in the sky – assumed to be a spectral recreation of the Battle of Edgehill – that a pamphlet called “A Great Wonder in Heaven” detailing the ghostly sightings was published the following year. Even to this day the sounds and apparitions have been witnessed, particularly around the anniversary of the battle.

At ‘The Castle at Edgehill’ hotel & restaurant, there is said to be a ghost named Edna that frequents the tower and makes herself known from time to time. Are you brave enough to stay and find out for yourself?

V

Village (Bicester)

In the last 20+ years, the burgeoning market town of Bicester has become an international destination to millions of tourists in search of fashion bargains. Bicester Village is a luxury outlet centre which is made up of 160 Disneyland-esque boutique stores, all providing discounts on fashion giants such as Gucci, Dior, Pandora, Tommy Hilfiger, Kate Spade, UGG, Under Armour, Versace and New Balance.

After Buckingham Palace, it is the second most visited place in the UK by Chinese tourists, with a total of 6.4 million visitors passing through it’s gates in 2016. End to end it stretches the same length as both Paris’ Champs Elysee and London’s Oxford Street at 1.2 miles. Due to the many Chinese visitors, there’s noodle bars, signs in Mandarin and there was even a full Chinese New Year celebration with Minister Xu Jin from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in attendance.

You can reach Bicester by train very easily from Banbury Station; it’s the next stop south and takes around 15-20 minutes to reach the Bicester North station. From there you can get a Park & Ride bus to the Village. Along with the Bicester Village station you can easily and quickly reach Oxford and London, if you want to venture further.

W

World War I

In the fields of south east Banbury, close to where thousands of cars pass on the M40 every day, lies the earthwork remnants of one of the town’s contributions to World War I. What was once a National Filling Factory (No.9), this area was scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 by the Secretary of State of the time, as a site of national importance.

National Filling Factories were essentially a series of units linked together by a light railway, where local workers filled shells with lyddite (a high explosive containing picric acid) under extremely dangerous conditions. Production of filled shells began in April 1916 and ended in 1924, but at the height of the war it gave employment to 933 men and 548 women.

When demand for lyddite declined by September 1917 as the army switched to TNT, sections of the factory were converted to filling naval mines and shrapnel shells and, early in 1918, part of the factory was given over to the filling of chemical shells with mustard gas. It was closed in 1927 and once decommissioned it was then dismantled under order from the Ministry of Munitions. Germany sent Luftwaffe planes to bomb the area behind the Bowling Green pub in the 1940s since the enemy feared it had been reactivated.

X

X Marks The Spot!

Are you adventurous? Do you have an inquisitive mind? Have you ever longed to find hidden treasure!? Well soon you will be able to because we’ll be launching a real-life hunt in 2019. Somewhere in Banburyshire there is a hidden key that can be swapped, once found, for the treasure; an object fashioned from gold, silver and precious gems.

Visual and verbal clues to the final location are intricately incorporated within the illustrated pages of The Hidden Sun; a brand new treasure hunt book designed in the style of Kit William’s legendary Masquerade book of the 1970s/80s. This book holds clues to the location and also what to do when you get there, confirming the location (without the need to dig!) By touring and discovering the Banburyshire area, looking closer at the details and objects that surround you on your hunt, you can uncover the words needed to progress.

The overall idea is to get people to put down their digital devices and venture out into the real-world, the towns, villages and rolling countryside of the area, using the book as a basis of an adventure. Who knows where the journey will lead you and what experiences you will have… but until you try, you’ll never know.

We’ll update the site when the book is ready to purchase, or you can sign up to our newsletter below to gain early access and get a head start on your hunt.

Sign up for early access

Y

(Yummy) Regional Delicacies

The mouthwatering taste of a freshly baked Banbury Cake is something everyone should try. It is thought they were first produced way back in the 13th century, after the knights of the Crusades returned from the Middle East with dried fruits and exotic spices not seen in Britain until then. The first recorded recipes from the town date back to the 16th century, with Edward Welchman and later the Brown family becoming the most recognised bakers, selling their cakes in shops formerly in Parsons Street. The original shop was demolished in the late 1960s but a descendant of the original bakers still sells them under the Brown’s name. In Gervase Markham’s The English Huswife, published in 1615, the recipe requires currants, eggs, a variety of spices and pastry, but variations on the recipe have sprung up with some including orange peel, rose water, honey and rum. For the record though, Banbury Cakes were around a long time before the similar, shortcrust based Eccles Cake which is nowhere near as delectable.

Banbury also had it’s own strong cheese based on cow’s milk, but the recipe has now been lost to time. Alex James of the band Blur produces a range of tasty artisan cheeses from his farm in Kingham near Chipping Norton. Oxford Blue is a well respected cheese which is produced by French baron Robert Pouget in Burford and goes very well with his spicy Oxford Sauce.

The Cotswolds Distillery based in in Shipston-on-Stour, produces whiskeys gins and liqueurs, combining traditional methods with state of the art equipment and the highest quality ingredients.

Read on for our own Banbury Cake recipe…

Z

Zealots

A zealot is a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries a brand of Christianity forced it’s way into British life under the banner of Puritanism. Banbury became known throughout the country for the population’s extreme Puritanism; a religious reform movement and rebellion that arose within the Church of England, the followers of which sought to simplify, purify and regulate forms of worship and censor moral beliefs, especially about self-indulgence and sex out of marriage. They abhorred religious images and lived a very austere yet principled life away from the frivolities of other Christian beliefs.

Even today those connections are still remembered due to Banbury’s huge High Cross, Bread Cross and White Cross all being torn down in a fit of religious fervour in 1600, with a mob of Puritans demanding that the townspeople be rid of their wicked pagan ways.

One of the most famous Puritans was Oliver Cromwell, who used Banbury as a base in the English Civil War. The Puritans’ beliefs were transported by the emigration of congregations to the Netherlands and later to New England in North America, where the first settlers arrived aboard the Mayflower. But a group of influential Banburyshire clergymen, businessmen and members of the establishment sought to create their own Puritan colony in Providence island just off Nicaragua, as they crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower’s sister ship the Seaflower.

You can read about the voyage and the new settler’s experiences in the excellent book The Island that Disappeared; Old Providence and the Making of the Western World by Tom Feiling, linked below.

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