Look Back with Little: Special birthday for our history champions

Members of the Banbury Historical Society at an exhibition in the Town Hall with Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Malcolm Spokes and Mrs Spokes (1957-58). Founder member Jeremy Gibson extreme right and President Lord Saye and Sele centre
Members of the Banbury Historical Society at an exhibition in the Town Hall with Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Malcolm Spokes and Mrs Spokes (1957-58). Founder member Jeremy Gibson extreme right and President Lord Saye and Sele centre

In the autumn of 1957 the well-known and much respected local historian Dr ERC (Ted) Brinkworth gave a series of talks under the heading ‘New Light on Old Banbury’ run as a university extra-mural class.

These lectures generated a lot of interest in local history and a desire to progress further research and it was as a result of these that the Banbury Historical Society was formed.

The inaugural meeting of the Society took place at 7.30pm on a cold, foggy Wednesday, December 4, 1957 at the Borough Reference Library in Marlborough Road. A very young library assistant, Barrie Trinder, was given the task of opening up the library.

As the time neared 7.30pm with just Dr Brinkworth, Jeremy Gibson, and Barrie present things were not looking promising but by the appointed hour a further 15 people had assembled including Mr Rose, headmaster of Banbury Grammar School. Dr Brinkworth opened the meeting with a talk on the opportunities for research and transcription, mentioning among other sources the Borough Accounts, Vestry Book and Parish Registers. This was followed by Jeremy Gibson adding a few words about wills and a plea by Valentine Bromley that with so much demolition planned in the Factory Street area archaeological work should not be neglected.

A second meeting was held on Monday, January 6, 1958 with Dr Brinkworth in the chair and Jeremy Gibson acting as secretary: in spite of the very cold weather a further 15 people turned up. After a general discussion a number of important decisions were reached, an executive committee formed, a subscription of 5/- per annum agreed, the desirability of asking Lord Saye and Sale to become first president, and a tentative lecture programme to be arranged by Dr Brinkworth with the possibility of a ‘field’ meeting in the summer.

During the course of 1958, 121 people each paid 5/- to become members and 16 made the even greater commitment to become life members. The first membership form stated that the aim of the Banbury Historical Society was ‘to encourage voluntary research into the history of the town and neighbourhood… Although the emphasis is on documentary research and other historical interests, such as archaeology, architecture, and photography of old buildings, etc., are much to be encouraged’.

In pursuit of a wider membership Ted Brinkworth wrote a short popular history, Old Banbury, with illustrations supplied by Valentine Bromley who was the Society’s honorary archaeological adviser. Old Banbury attracted much attention as evidenced by the sale of 40 copies at the Annual Arts and Crafts Exhibition. Lord Saye and Sale as President of the society ensured a copy was presented to the Mayor, Cllr M Spokes. However the printing costs were sizable and members were urged to encourage sales to acquaintances, a newsletter dated 1.5.58 stresses that ‘upon the success and eventual profits of this book rests the whole of the Society’s publications policy’.

The first issue of the Society’s journal Cake and Cockhorse followed soon after in September 1959. Ever since it has been held in high regard as typified by Professor Ralph Davis of Birmingham University who at the 1970 Annual Dinner made the comment ‘the Society must be unique among Local History groups in maintaining such a high standard in its publication every quarter’.

It is pleasing to note that Cake and Cockhorse is as popular as ever with Volume 20 Number 9 due out at the end of this month. Founder members Dr Barrie Trinder and Jeremy Gibson are both active on the editorial committee. Dr Trinder is also the author of Junctions at Banbury: a town and its railways since 1850 Volume 35 in the record series (September 2017) and Jeremy Gibson has in preparation Georgian Banbury before 1800.

I will end as I did in 2007. Then Jeremy Gibson wrote in Local History ‘here’s to the next ten years (and many more), I hope I’ll be around to celebrate some of them at least’. We are about to enter the ‘many more’: Happy 60th BHS.

> For the current programme, go to www.banburyhistoricalsociety.org