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Beast festival makes a date with co-incidence

The organisers of the proposed Banbury hobby horse festival have made an uncanny discovery. It turns out the event will take place exactly 400 years after two of the original Banbury crosses were destroyed by puritans.

The anniversary hadn't been noticed by historians in the town. Now it'll lend an extra dimension to the horse festival - known as Beasts Around Banbury Cross.

The original plan had been to stage the event in 2001. Only after it was brought forward to the first weekend of July, 2000, did the coincidence come to light.

Now the festival committee is looking at ideas for marking the quatercentenary. They want to reclaim the town from the puritans.

The Banbury Cross that stands in the town's Horse Fair was built in the 19th century and is not the one featured in the famous "Ride a cock-horse" nursery rhyme - though it's a popular stopping-off point for tourists.

There were actually three medieval crosses in the town. It's not clear which one is referred to in the rhyme. Two were destroyed in 1600 - the precise day is not known - and the third had gone within six years.

The likely sites are now marked by discreet plaques, but it's thought few Banburians know where the crosses stood.

One plan is to have the sites decorated as part of the town's entry for the national Britain in Bloom competition.

The beast festival organisers are contemplating a perambulation around the cross locations - inspired by the Whittlesea Straw Bear procession. Two of the sites are in attractive pedestrian areas, well placed for morris stands.

Invitations are now going out to morris beasts and other animals, as well as a small number of morris teams. Adderbury Morris Men are helping to put together an attractive package to entice performers to attend. Some beasts are already booked, including the four tourney horses taken to Sidmouth Festival by The Outside Capering Crew.

All beast owners are welcome at the event.

Organisations in Banbury are starting work on beasts of their own - including some for outlandish community races.

Other attractions include a walk led by Steve Wass the picturesque streets of Adderbury, visiting sites associated with the village's morris tradition. It's hoped that Adderbury Village Morris Men will also be involved. The village is only three miles from Banbury Cross.

The 400th anniversary of the puritan destruction is not the only co-incidence to have emerged.

The proposed progress around the cross locations is planned to end in the High Street, close to the Town Hall. Now local historian Brian Little has told organisers that the area used to be called…. The Beast Market.


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Banbury Cross
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©2000 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew

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