Thomas Hankinson, Banbury town mayor in 1894 and town councillor from 1882 until 1887 and again from 1890 until 1892, donated an initial plot of land to the town so the ‘poor of Banbury’ could have a recreational facility.
Hankinson was a well-known name in the town due to the success of Hankinson’s Butchers that operated from 93 High Street.
The butchers were particularly renowned for their hand-made faggots, affectionately known as ‘spice balls’.
In 1887, land was purchased by the Banbury Recreation and Bathing Company, adjoining the Great Western Railway north of the bridge, to replace condemned public swimming baths in Swan Close Road. The baths were completed the following year.
Banbury Town Council took over the park in 1888 and has been improving the land ever since.
The 1960s and 70s saw both development and expansion of the park. Spiceball was chosen for the development of a leisure centre and a former grain mill was bought and converted into an arts and young adults centre.
Until 1974 the two fields closest to what is now Cherwell Drive, either side of the river, were Banbury’s landfill waste site. This function was ceased and the fields reclaimed to add to the park. The same year the leisure centre was built.
Jeremy Sacha, of Cherwell District Council, designed the currents park’s landscape in 1985 and the plans were adopted by Banbury Town Council in 2000.
The latest improvements, undertaken by BBOWT’s Wild Banbury project, began last year and will see the woodland area become a valued educational and leisure wilderness for the town’s residents.
To read more about the Wild Banbury project click here.