IN EARLY January 1931 Banbury was characterised by both tradition and change. Whereas an established feature of the month continued to be the Old Twelfth Fair there was a widely regretted trend towards the demolition of buildings that had become accepted parts of the local urban landscape.
The Horse Fair opened on Monday January 19 and attracted farmers and dealers from all over Britain. There were fewer animals than in years past except for the category of heavy horses. Explanation of this decline centred on changes in livestock ownership.
In Victorian times the Red Lion had hosted the fair’s annual dinner, an ‘ordinary’ as it was called. Towards the end of 1930 the building was razed to the ground and replaced by Woolworths. Banbury lost a prime location for people seeking accommodation. The AA used to recommend motorists to stay there.
News of another building about to be lost appeared in the pages of January Banbury Guardians. This was the Old George Inn on the corner of Broad and Bridge Streets. In its place a new building was scheduled to house Barclays Bank, which had started life as Gilletts Country Bank in Cornhill.
A different concern was highlighted in the correspondence columns of the Guardian. H C Watson of 40 High Street wrote appealing to the Borough Council, Chamber of Trade and the Motor Bus Companies to provide a warm and well lit room for people waiting for buses to take them home.
The reason was the long established trend for people from the villages to descend on the town during market days Thursday and Saturday. A cynic’s view of Woolworths was embodied in the often heard observation, ‘good job Woolworths have come, it will be somewhere warm to wait for the buses’.
A related change characteristic was that these visitors arrived in Midland Red buses and a host of other village operators. Previously they had depended on village carriers. Now the cart had not merely been replaced by the bus but operation of the latter had changed. Typical was the Blue Bus Service linking Adderbury and Bodicote with Banbury. This had been started by carriers Plackett and Wilmott. By 1931 Trinders had taken over running the route.
Regular advertising in the Banbury Guardian enabled William Potts (editor) to draw constant attention to his recently published book ‘Banbury Cross and Rhyme’. There could not have been a more traditional aspect of Banbury. Published at 2/- (10p) the only other cost was postage at 2½d (1p) if sent book post open at both ends of the package. Whilst Banburians like Potts were keen to emphasise the town’s biggest asset, garage proprietors sought to build on the 1920s stress on motoring opportunities beyond the town. This was spearheaded by Sidney Ewins who had used his trade experience to write a booklet about motor runs from Banbury. He gave details of ten routes which in effect were round trips varying in length from 24 ½ miles to 67 miles. There were brief descriptions of places visited along the highway.
In his introduction Ewins maintained that few motorists could claim to have exhausted all the possibilities of discovering something new within the radius of a day’s out-and-home run. As if to add weight to his argument, County Garages in the Horse Fair marketed the new Rover Family Ten at £189. They claimed it had been the sensation of the Motor Show at Olympia. Linked to the experience of venturing beyond Banbury was the suggestion that you might like to embellish your car with special rug fitments from Swalcliffe Plush and G. Eeaves and Sons.
Unconnected with tradition and change in Banbury came the news that the Daily Sketch had made available a cheque for £200. A lucky local had received this from the Mayor of Banbury during a visit to the Palace Cinema.
A happy new year to all my readers!
l I am grateful to staff at Banbury Museum for allowing me to use the Ewins’ Motor Runs booklet.