Look Back with Little: Extraordinary year for John Cheney as mayor

Calthorpe Street tea party NNL-180911-161145001
Calthorpe Street tea party NNL-180911-161145001

An important part of the mayoral year has always been making speeches at annual dinners of a variety of town organisations.

These occasions are opportunities to recognise their achievements as well as comment on significant town developments.

In November 1936 the office of mayor passed to John Cheney of the well-known printing firm.

The timing meant that he would be in office for Coronation year 1937 and become busily engaged in civic affairs.

An early function for John was the Annual Dinner of the Banbury Central Bowling Club.

This was held at the Flying Horse in Parsons Street on a very foggy evening in November shortly after his installation. Sadly two important presidents missed the event because of the adverse weather conditions: they were Mr A E Bradshaw, the club’s leading official who lived in Steeple Aston and Mr W J French, who presided over the Oxfordshire Bowls Association.

In the 1930s the game of bowls was dominated by three clubs in Banbury. They were Banbury Borough Bowls, the Chestnuts and the Central Club. The first two could be found on opposite sides of the People’s Park whilst the third had a green behind the Flying Horse. In 1973 this club moved to the Northern Aluminium Company Sports Ground in Horton View, Easington.

The 1936 bowls season was a particularly significant one for the Central Club as its playing members had met with considerable success and in particular had recorded a win over the Borough Bowls side. It was noted that the level of achievement owed much to their captain Mr W Sanders who seemed endowed with untiring energy which encouraged other players to give of their best.

Despite the loss of their old green, Banbury Central continued to show enterprise by agreeing to take part in a Hospital League in 1940.

An important outcome for the Horton was the valuable income that came its way after sides had competed for the Keyser Cup.

Following the meal in 1936 an early toast was to the Mayor and Borough of Banbury. This enabled the proposer Mr T Goddard to wish John Cheney and his wife every success in Coronation year which would be strenuous and involve the need to make many speeches during his civic and municipal activities.

When it was John’s turn to respond he let it be known that by the end of 1937 he would have attended the dinner of every bowls club in the town.

The theme of the speech was especially interesting as it was about changes to the businesses in the centre of the town.

He was clearly conscious that some people would regret the departure of some retailers who had shut down or left the town.

At the same time he wanted to welcome new faces especially in terms of what they could offer.

The loss of the Red Lion Hotel had been a huge blow especially for the farming community. At the same time its replacement F W Woolworth soon found acceptance, especially for its pick ‘n mix confectionery line and for broken biscuits, a boon to those struggling to make ends meet.

An old favourite on the corner of Butchers Row and the High Street had been Boxolds.

Supported by a small holding in Neithrop, Harry Boxold traded in seeds (especially for song birds) and flowers. He also sold English and imported fruits.

Banbury lost one of its popular pubs the Criterion but gained the Fifty Shilling Tailors. They were joined by Montague Burton who advertised his classic menswear in the local papers.

These changes meant newcomers to the town and the sort of friendships and social intercourse which made Banbury worth living in.

John Cheney went on to welcome new employers notably Alpes, the Northern Aluminium Company described as a timely arrival in the face of considerable unemployment, and Switchgear and Equipment.

He hoped Banbury Central Bowls members would extend a welcome and help to make newcomers feel more like Banburians.

For himself John Cheney aimed to ‘make Banbury a town worthy of the greatest traditions’.