Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady upon a white horse, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes.
And so I set out to find this fine lady, who is now immortalized with a magnificent sculpture. And to check out the origins of the nursery rhyme. As I expected, there are several versions and interpretations to choose from.
In medieval times there was an annual celebration where children rode hobby horses through the town, they were known as cock horses. Although an adults knee is also known as a cock horse-I shall leave you to draw your own conclusions about that one. The fine lady could be Elizabeth I, Lady Godiva, (Although it was in Coventry that she bared all) or Celia Fiennes, one of the family from nearby Broughton Castle, as in “see a Fiennes Lady”.
Whoever she is, she is celebrating spring, new growth and creativity. As she wears a crown of 13 spring flowers on her head which was originally meant to have 2 butterflies and a moth sitting on it, however before the bronze was finally cast, they fell off and landed on her hair and cloak, the sculptors liked it so left them there. She has bluebells and musical bells on her toes. And her horse is a Welsh Cob
A frog was added to the base later and indont known if it was deliberate, but it sits in a puddle after it has rained.
It really is a stunning sculpture and I returned on several days and each time found a new aspect of it to enjoy.
Banbury’s cross however was overshadowed by it’s Victorian benefactors. There have been several crosses in Banbury as it grew from a Roman settlement, through to a thriving medieval market town and stronghold for Oliver Cromwell. Those crosses have all gone now but the Victorians took every opportunity to erect a memorial to their greatness, this one was to celebrate the marriage of Victoria’s eldest daughter, also Victoria to Prince Frederick of Prussia, in 1859
I didn’t find any spring lambs in Banbury but I did discover one of the parks had an aviary