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Banburyshire Family History

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Muriel Wells

What an enjoyable time I have been having, reading the memories that you have sent in. It is marvellous that modern technology allows us to share our experiences and we have so much in common despite geographical and age differences. But of course ---- we have our "Banbury" Roots.

As others have entered the confessional, I will, too. Today is my 73rd birthday. In our list we are widely different in age and experiences but have an interest in common ---- wanting to know more about our ancestors ----- isn't it wonderful?

I was born a Coventrian, but my paternal lines all hailed from close to Banbury, and I feel an affinity and great interest in all and everything about it. Most were in the humble Agricultural Labourer and Domestic Servant class, excepting for an illegitimate liaison! So, no rolling acres or prestigious titles and breeding in this particular family tree.

But as I have said, I feel the "pull" of this area --- the "call of the genes?" Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross"[1], has always been my favourite Nursery Rhyme, possibly because it has such a lilting tune.

All my own descendants have been brought up to it, with my own innovation of trotting noises to begin and end it. My eldest grandson always collapsed with laughter when we reached, "With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes", but he was too little to explain why!

Joe reminded me about outings by 'Sharra'[2] and I remember Bunty's coaches, (Coventry), but as we lived close by the BTS garage (Bennetts), of Broad Street, my family and church used this firm, or the one from Red Lane. It was easier that way with early starts and late finishes to the day. BTS had a very nice modern fleet, so we felt a bit superior travelling in such comfort.

During the later 1940s into the 1950s, day trips to the seaside were popular with the working class. The nearest sea was about 100 miles away so it was all a great adventure, traversing strange countryside! Skegness and Great Yarmouth on the east coast, Barry Island and Aberystwyth in Wales, Isle of Wight on the south coast ---- exotic locations to us young Midlanders.

Seafronts were explored and we had the obligatory paddle before eating sandy sandwiches. We consumed many icecreams and constantly thirsted for another lemonade --- was it the salt-laden sea air? Then fish and chip teas or if it was a chapel 'do', being marshalled for the arranged meal. Usually everyone gravitated to the shops at some stage to buy tacky souvenirs and sample the rock! Rock, was a stick of hard confectionery with the name imprinted through it, usually peppermint in flavour, and pink. We had to take some home for the less lucky.

Eventually tired, sticky and happy we assembled for the return trip, and there was much counting of heads, and always someone was missing! I don't remember the cameradie that Joe describes, but we weren't unfriendly. Perhaps we were too refined to "let down our hair"? En route there were several halts at pubs, though, when some made a rush for the bar, (that salty sea air, you know!). The rest of us used the conveniences and sampled the crisps and bottles of 'pop' on sale, tiredly happy and longing for bed.

Communal day trips by coach phased out when most families were able to own a car. Trips by coach were still taken, and continue to this day, but usually by groups. Tastes have become more sophisticated and the destination is likely to be a stately home, famous gardens or wild-life sanctuary. Instead of tired, sticky youngsters the coaches return their immaculate blue-rinsed passengers to their homes.

a charabanc

Now talking of 'sharras', my mother, born in 1904, recounted how she was an adult before she ever saw the sea. Amidst great excitement they embarked on long windy, bumpy trips in an open charabanc.

In earlier years outings for Mum and Grandma were usually Sunday School and chapel trips, travelling by farm cart or wagon for 2 or 3 miles to a field or riverside. There they had races and played games, whilst trestle tables were set up and laden with paste sandwiches, buns, scones and cakes. Cold drink was served to the children and a tea urn catered to the adult thirsts. This break from the exacting routines of everyday was relished by all.

Sunday School trips for us were still simple, although ventured further afield. More than once our destination was Kenilworth, where we tried out the properties of the "Echo" fields! A lovely hill slope tempted us to roll down it, and we never tired of seeing cars drive through the water splash of the ford --- a feature which I believe is no longer there. Races, games and food arrangements were much as in an earlier times. Food particularly, as with wartime rationing and postwar restrictions, paste sandwiches were the usual fare! I remember rhubarb and ginger jam seemed to figure prominantly, too. But for all that we had a great day!

Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross
The Annual 'Sharra' Trip

Written by Muriel Wells