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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

St Mary the Virgin, Banbury

I have enjoyed a HeartEdge visit today to the splendid late 18th Century church of St Mary the Virgin at the heart of Banbury. The church is of particular interest for several reasons, including its connection to St Stephen Walbrook.

As designed by the architect, Samuel Pepys Cockerill, the building was a perfect square with sides 90 feet long. It is thought to have been modelled on Sir Christopher Wren’s St. Stephen Walbrook, which, like this building, has a dome supported by twelve classical columns.

In 1873 the whole east end was reconstructed to the design of Sir Arthur Blomfield, All that remains of Blomfield's richly coloured decorative scheme are figures in the chancel which are painted in imitation mosaic In the dome of the apse, is depicted the Vision of the Throne of God from Revelation chapter 4: the rainbow, the four and twenty elders, the four living creatures, and the seven lamps symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Behind the High Altar are the figures of the Twelve Apostles with appropriate symbols of their calling or martyrdom. The stained glass is also of Blomfield’s time, the most striking windows being those at the eastern end of the nave above the galleries – by an unknown artist.

The church has a Lamp of Brotherhood brought from Monte Cassino in 1964, one of 84 throughout the world, and the first in this country. Jonathan Swift hints in the preface to the 1726 edition of Gulliver’s Travels that he had taken the name of Gulliver from tombstones in the Churchyard at Banbury. 

In 2002 the chancel was extended forward to create a stage, facilities for those with disabilities were added, emergency lighting and toilets were added and the church was redecorated. St. Mary’s is now both a place of worship and a resource to the community for performing arts. Since 2002 throygh LiveArts, St Mary’s has offered a performance and exhibition venue to a wide range of local, national and international artists, choirs and orchestras.

LiveArts at St Mary’s is a group of volunteers who, on behalf of the church supports, promotes and organises a programme of events, about 30 each year, both midweek and weekend. These include numerous local choral societies and orchestras (often supporting local charities) as well as well-known artists, Sir James Galway, Hayley Westenra, St Agnes Fountain, alongside the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra and the Black Dyke Brass Band.

The Beacon drop in Centre in the St Mary's Church Centre is a drop-in centre for people who are homeless, poorly housed or socially excludedincluding those with mental health or substance misuse problems. Referrals are made to longer term housing and connection floating support workers are available. The Beacon is a place where people can come to find a warm, accepting environment and friendly atmosphere.

Banbury - famous for its cakes, cross and the ‘Ride a Cock Horse’ nursery rhyme – is an ideal base for touring the Cotswolds, Shakespeare’s Stratford Upon Avon, Warwick and Oxford. Banbury retains much of its historic market town character, and was granted its market charter by Queen Mary 1 in 1554. The town has a modern shopping centre which blends in with the old shopping streets, where visitors can find a fine selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants.

Banbury Museum is home to a permanent collection of The Civil War, plush manufacturing, the Victorian market town, costume from the 17th century to the present day, Tooley’s Boatyard and the Oxford Canal, as well as an international temporary exhibitions programme, family fun events, talks, tours and fun for all.


Moonrakers - Waulkin' O'er The Fauld.

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