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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
History muddle makes Banbury cross
New Banbury Cross
The replacement Banbury Cross was built in 1859
Two embarrassing historical errors have been discovered at one of the best known landmarks in children's literature.

Two plaques in Banbury claim to mark the site of the famous Banbury Cross, and give different dates for the destruction of the original medieval structure.

The mayor of Banbury says an investigation may have to be held to put right the muddle over the town's cross - featured in the famous Ride A Cockhorse nursery rhyme.

The present-day structure was built in 1859 to replace the original High Cross, which was destroyed by Puritans in July 1600.

I do think it matters to get things right - we may have to investigate this quite seriously
Rosemarie Higham, Mayor of Banbury
The mistakes have passed unnoticed because the metal plaque is difficult to read - and it is in the middle of a busy traffic roundabout.

The plaque wrongly claims the new cross stands "on or near" the site of the old one - and wrongly states that the original was destroyed in 1602.

But a stone in the Market Square also marks the probable site of the old cross - several streets away.

The errors were discovered by Simon Pipe, founder of Banbury Hobby Horse Festival.

Victorian Plaque
The Victorian plaque gives the wrong location for the cross
He said: "I was photographing some floral cockhorses at the base of the cross when I read the plaque.

"When they built the cross, no one actually knew where the old one had stood or what it looked like, so they just took a guess.

"But some documents from a Privy Council trial turned up years later, describing how the Puritans had destroyed the old Cross in 1600. It turned out the perpetrators were ordered to rebuild the cross, but they never did.

"After that, an academic from Southampton worked out the likely location."

Correct marker

Festival organisers arranged for the correct marker stone to be placed in the Market Square in the summer of 2000, in time for the 400th anniversary of the Puritan vandalism.

The town mayor, Councillor Rosemarie Higham, said: "I do think it matters to get things right - we may have to investigate this quite seriously.

"We can't have two plaques in different places, both claiming to be on the site of the old cross.

"In 1960 the county council asked if Banbury Cross could be moved because it was blocking the traffic. Maybe we'll even have to think about that again!"

Banbury Hobby Horse Festival takes place on 4-6 July 2003.

Horsing about in Banbury
28 Jun 02  |  UK News

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