Town’s revival as industrial centre owed much to aluminium company

editorial image

AS PROMISED in last week’s article it is my intention today to explore a significant statement in Cheney’s Silver Jubilee booklet for 1935.

AS PROMISED in last week’s article it is my intention today to explore a significant statement in Cheney’s Silver Jubilee booklet for 1935.

This read ‘in no other period in its history has the town of Banbury undergone such considerable change as in the first twenty-five years of the reign of George’.

Based on population growth alone it seems to be a surprising observation. A census figure of 13,463 at the outset turned into only a small increase by 1935 when the number was 14,520.

Four years later the Banbury Advertiser published a report of the fourth annual dinner of the Banbury and District Master Butchers’ Association held at the Crown Hotel in Bridge Street.

Pat McDougall (Chairman of Midland Marts Board of Directors) proposed the toast to the Association. He bemoaned the gradual disappearance of family trading concerns and their replacement by multiple shops such as International Stores.

In drawing attention to this loss Pat McDougall must have been aware that within the period reviewed by Cheney’s (1910-1935) he himself along with farmers, financiers and auctioneers was responsible for taking livestock buying and selling out of the streets and on to the site of the dealers’ market in Grimsbury.

Undoubtedly the biggest change during the period came at the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s when Bernhard Samuelson’s Britannia Works closed and the Northern Aluminium Company (NAC) arrived. The former had ceased to dominate the world market for agricultural machinery way back in 1905 when Samuelson died.

Banbury’s revival as an industrial centre owed much to NAC, who set up on the Southam Road and so changed the axis of manufacturing from a southern sector to the northern edge of the town.

Between 1926 and 1930 another significant development was changes in authority responsibility.

Policing moved from the Borough Council to Oxfordshire County Council and coincidentally a new police station was opened in the Warwick Road.

In the space of two years the county took over responsibility for Poor Law Relief and also main roads within the Borough.

Education was another sector where developments were taking place. In 1930 there was a major relocation when Banbury County School left Marlborough Road for Ruskin Road in Easington, later becoming Banbury Grammar School.

The Corporation bought the old, central building and moved its offices from the Town Hall.

Roughly coincidental with this change was the appointment of Owen Reid as Town Clerk so breaking a connection with the Stockton family that had lasted since 1888.

The Borough of Banbury acquired the Harriers Field for the purpose of school construction but the intervention of the Second World War delayed this until 1948. In the meantime the Banbury Harriers FC lost a ground and the town an open space that had been used for grand events such as the Shopping Week Carnival of 1922 and the Harriers Athletic Sports Club meeting in midsummer 1925, when a huge crowd watched not only races but the special attraction of a trapeze performer.

However overall the period 1910-1935 saw an increase in the space devoted to parks and pleasure grounds, roughly 30 acres.

Peoples Park opened in the first decade of George’s reign and was further expanded in the 1920s when property clearance in Paradise released more land.

The people of Grimsbury benefitted from the acquisition of the Moors, which compensated them for the loss of the footway over the railway. It gave them access to the town and also recreational land.

Expenditure on housing rose from £7,987 in 1922 to £29,300 in 1935 suggesting that this was another sector for change.

Prominent amongst both public and private development were areas of housing in Easington.

By 1924, 403 council houses had been constructed.

They were needed to counter balance loss of old property elsewhere.

As in 1935 today we can ponder whether change equals progress and if the outcome of change makes the town a better place for work and play.