Banbury's People's Park

People’s Park is a place that is loved, and has been loved by generations of Banbury families.  It’s a place where people of all ages go for relaxation, peace and play.

It was Banbury’s first real park and was opened in 1919 by the then High Steward of Banbury – Lord North of Wroxton Abbey.  At that historic event, Banbury’s famous nursery rhyme came alive and a Fine Lady on a White Horse led a celebratory procession through the town to the park.

Sir Tony Baldry with Cllr Surinder Dhesi with the fine lady on a white horse

At a 100th anniversary event in July 2019, history repeated itself and a modern fine lady on a white horse was greeted in the park by the current High Steward, Sir Tony Baldry.

The parkland was purchased for the town with money bequeathed by benefactor George Vincent Ball. He left money in his will for the purchase of land to be a park for the ‘recreation of all classes of Banbury people.’ Mr Ball was a businessman in Banbury. He was a chemist in Parson’s Street and realised the need for a public park.

There were others, too, who had a public park in mind. In 1910 a syndicate of local people bought part of the former Neithrop Estate when it was put up for auction. After buying the land, the syndicate leased it to the borough council of the day as a park.

In 1918, Mr Ball’s legacy enabled the council to buy the land from the syndicate. Also in 1918, the council bought two adjoining but smaller plots of land and all three areas became the People’s Park we see today.

The GV Ball (People’s Park) Charity still exists and its stated objective is “to provide land as a park for the recreation of all classes of the public during every day of the week from sunrise to sunset all year round to be ornamentally planted and laid out and to be called People's Park.”

Banbury Town Council now owns and maintains the park and makes sure that the conditions set out in Mr Ball’s will are adhered to. The council keeps the park ‘modern’ while staying true to Mr Ball’s ideals.

The up-to-date facilities include tennis courts, community garden, aviary, children’s play area, fitness zone, war memorial, and a bowls green.

People's Park Multi games muga

People's Park bird aviary

People's Park grassed area

A feature of the park is a memorial tree planted in conjunction with Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity. Bereaved parents can attach messages to the branches.

The council holds several annual events in the park including Town Mayor’s Sunday, Film Friday, Picnic in the Park, and wreath-laying on Remembrance Day. Other organisations hire the park for community events.

School children enjoy projects such as planting-in-the-park (when primary schools compete against each other to see who can design and plant the best flower bed), making hanging baskets, and a ‘grow the tallest sunflower’ competition.

In 2019 the war memorial underwent a make-over and the footpaths through the park were resurfaced.

CCTV coverage has recently been extended and an alcohol ban is in force. For the future, a café and toilets are planned – and should be open to the public in 2020. Both are the result of a survey of park users.

People’s Park is a well-used amenity with easy access from the town centre and its future is assured. It will always be a public park.

People's Park Tennis Court area

People's Park grassed area

Bowling Green in People's Park