Banbury, a market-town and municipal borough in the Banbury parliamentary division of Oxfordshire, England, on the river Cherwell and the Oxford canal, 86 m. N.W. of London by the northern line of the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 12,968. The canal communicates northward with the Grand Junction and Warwick canals, and there are branch lines of the Great Central railway to the main line at Woodford, and of the London & North-Western railway to Bletchley. The town is the centre of a rich agricultural district, and there is a large manufacture of agricultural implements; while other industries include rope and leather works and brewing. Banbury cakes, consisting of a case of pastry containing a mixture of currants, have a reputation of three centuries' standing. A magnificent Gothic parish church was destroyed by fire and gunpowder in 1790 to make way for a building of little merit in Italian style. The ancient Banbury Cross, celebrated in a familiar nursery rhyme, was destroyed by Puritans in 1610. During the 17th century the inhabitants of Banbury seem to have been zealous Puritans, and are frequently satirized by contemporary dramatists.
At a somewhat earlier period the grammar school, now extinct, was of such repute as to be chosen as the model for the constitution of the school of St Paul's. A school of science was erected in 1861, and there is a municipal secondary and technical school. Some fine old timbered houses remain in the streets. Of the castle built in 1125 there are only the barest traces. Wroxton Abbey, 2 m. N.W., shows slight remains of the original Augustinian priory; but the present beautiful gabled building, picturesquely situated, dates mainly from 1618. Broughton Castle, 2&FRAC12; m. S.W., is the most noteworthy house in the county. The oblong block of buildings, fronted by lawns, is surrounded by a moat and protected by a gate-house, part of which dates from 1301, at which date the chapel and a part of the house were also built. There is also work of the 15th century and the Elizabethan period. The house is the seat of Lord Saye and Sele, having been in the Fiennes family since the reign of Henry VII. (1485-1509). Here Pym and Hampden and other leaders of the Parliamentarians were wont to meet in 1640. Without the gate is a fine Decorated church. Banbury is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors.
Area, 4633 acres.
In the year 556 Banbury (Beranbyrig, Banesberie) was the scene of a battle between Cynric and Ceawlin and Britons. It was assessed at 50 hides in the Domesday survey and was then held by the bishop of Lincoln. Allusions to the market occur as early as 1138, and Henry II. by charter confirmed a market on Thursday and granted a fair at Whitsun. The first charter of incorporation was granted by Queen Mary in 1553, and instituted a common council consisting of a bailiff, 12 aldermen and 12 chief burgesses; a court of record, one justice of the peace, a Thursday market and two annual fairs. James I. confirmed this charter in 1608. with some additions, including a weekly wool-market, a horse-market and two additional annual fairs. Both these charters were surrendered in 1683 in favour of a new charter, but were resumed in 1688. In 1718 George I. granted a new charter, which held until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. From the date of Queen Mary's charter until the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885 the borough was represented by one member in parliament.
See Alfred Beesley, History of Banbury (London, 1841).