Banbury History

Quakers have been a positive influence in and around Banbury since the seventeenth century.

The making of Queen’s Road

The following notes were taken from an article by Derrick Knight produced in Cake and Cockhorse for the Banbury Historical Society – Volume 19 – Spring 2015 with their kind permission. The full A4 richly coloured illustrated version called Once Upon a Time in Queen’s Road is available in local libraries or from Derrick at for £5. These extracts are very short sections of a very interesting article but they demonstrate the huge influence of the Quaker movement in Banbury. The article also highlights the huge social needs of the area at that time.

The Gillett family and other Quakers like the Cadburys had a huge influence on the growth and well-being of the citizens of Banbury in the nineteenth century and are fully acknowledged in all local histories. Joseph Ashby Gillett was a partner in Gillett’s Bank in Cornhill; he was a man of property but also a practical man of charity. Joseph and his brothers became part of a small but active strand of Quakers in Banbury who for three generations were prominent locally in all kinds of business and philanthropic activities.

When Joseph died in 1853 his eldest son Charles became at 23 chairman of Gillett’s New Bank in Banbury, where in 1856 he was joined by his brother. The agricultural depression of the later nineteenth century hit local farmers hard. Cheap wheat poured into the country from North America and drove many in the farming community into bankruptcy. Even though Gillett’s Bank offered fair terms there came a time when farmers could not repay their debts and their land fell into the Bank’s hands1.

Charles may have ridden up the Broughton Road, then edged with fields, where he could stop on the brow of the hill and look east across the bare fields dotted here and there by old ashes and oaks now regretfully owned by his bank. He had a vision of the area of Neithrop in front of him, close to the western boundary of Banbury as an ideal space for a new suburb which could be planned and marketed by his bank and make good, perhaps profitable use of the idle land forfeited to the bank and by his landowners and farmers.

First the road and layout had to be agreed and built. In the autumn of 1853 Charles issued a notice of intent to extend Paradise Street, a cul-de-sac off the Warwick Road in Neithrop, into Bath Road, which would link the Warwick Road and the Broughton Road2. The notice of intent was the beginning of a well-thought-out plan to make good use of the available land. Though the idea of ‘town planning’ did not become a recognised concept until 1904, I believe that the care with which Charles went about the scheme was an example of ‘town planning’. Following the tradition of his Quaker upbringing, Charles made sure that the quality of the new streets would be as good as possible.

In 1856 Queen Street, as it was then called, was laid out to the west of Bath Road3. It was destined to be a typical Victorian terrace for people of modest means but its plan was well thought through. In the morning the sun lit the front of most of the new homes and worked its way round to the back garden in the afternoon. At the rear of the gardens was a pathway leading past several houses linked at intervals with the street that could be used by tradesmen, coal deliveries or members of the family not wishing to bring dirt into the house. Finally, the concerned Quaker animus made sure the whole district was protected by a set of conditions, not only in the building but in the legal indenture documents, which have changed hands through several generations of house-owners or lessees and have still to be respected.4

1 Effect of agricultural depression on the bank: Audrey Taylor, Gillett’s Bank at Banbury and Oxford, OUP (1964), 121-4

2 Oxfordshire History Centre, Gillett Papers, Articles of agreement: Gil/Iv/iii,iv

3 Oxfordshire History Centre, Agreements with local builders re Bath Road, Bath Terrace and Queen Street: Gil/1V etc.

4 All indentures of properties in Queen’s Road contain environmental conditions that have to be agreed