The social and economic history of Banbury between 1830 and 1880
The period between the Reform Bill and the Agricultural Depression was one of the 'golden ages' of the English market town. Some towns enjoyed at this time a new lease of prosperity, and at the same time gained an unusual degree of freedom from aristocratic and government control. Banbury was one of the foremost market towns of nineteenth century England. Although its population in the middle of the century was less than ten thousand, as a market centre it was comparable with many county towns of vastly greater size. In this study the changing economy of the town is closely analysed, and the effects of the opening of railways, the rise of an engineering industry, and the increase in the size of shops duly observed. Banbury was a parliamentary borough, contested in all but one of the elections between the First and Third Reform Acts, and almost every religious denomination of consequence was represented in the town. Its society was deeply polarized, and the effects of this polarization on the local economy, on the provision of relief to the needy, and on local culture, are one of the main concerns of the study. Attention is also given to the physical growth of the town, the effects of its division into municipal and non-municipal parts, and the roles of speculators and land societies in the creation of new housing. The range of sources on nineteenth century Banbury is exceptionally wide. The experiences of the inhabitants of Banbury in this period in many ways reflected those of market towns in general, and this study throws light on a wide range of problems concerning the common experiences of many nineteenth century Englishmen, and about a certain, often neglected, type of urban community in particular.