Ride a cock horse

A friend mentioned Banbury, a town not far from where she lives. Way back before motorways, when we visited our uncle in Hereford, driving across country we passed through Banbury, and as children we automatically thought of Banbury Cross, and the nursery rhyme:

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes

I didn’t know then, and have only just found out now, that the name comes from a Saxon chieftain called Banna; it was a Saxon settlement but they arrived there having overwhelmed the local Romano-Brits. Banbury has been a place where significant things have happened, including the besieging of its castle in the Civil War. The old Banbury Cross did exist – as in many towns there were several stone crosses, some denoting market places, perhaps some sites of pilgrimage. The crosses were destroyed by the Puritans in 1600. However, you will find a cross there, dating back to 1859. There’s a really interesting page about stone crosses here:

https://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/stone-crosses/stone-crosses.htm

Another thing Banbury is famous for is Banbury cakes, not what you might think of as a cake, but a delicious pastry filled with currants and spice!

As with most nursery rhymes, no-one can say for a fact what their origins were, and there are all sorts of stories and ideas and supposed histories. ‘Ride a Cock Horse’ was in existence in the 1740’s and that seems to be as much s anyone can say. There have been suggestions as to who the fine lady was, including Elizabeth 1st, but I think it was probably just a song for children. A cock-horse is a male horse, or a lively horse, or an extra horse to pull a cart up a hill.

I remember when I was little, grown-ups would sit with their legs crossed and we could sit on the crossed over leg as if we were riding a horse and say the rhyme, so in my mind it’s just an old action song for little children, but of course, I am not an expert!!

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