Ghost hunting at Edgehill
Fondest memory: Not far from Banbury, in the village of Edgehill is the site of the first major battle of the English Civil War. It was here that, on 23 October 1642, Charles I's army of about 14,500 men confronted the parliamentary troops, about the same in number, under the Earl of Essex. The battle opened the road to London for Charles, but he did not take advantage of this opportunity. Many men had been killed in the battle and the site is supposed to be haunted: witnesses speak of strange noises, as if of battle going on and apparitions, like men on horseback. So one night we decided to try our luck and check the reports by ourselves. When it got dark, Alan, Lin and I drove to the Castle Inn, whose tower, erected a hundred years after the battle, marks its site. In the bars you can see many paraphernalia of the battle: muskets, halberds, breastplates, maps and paintings. We found a table in the garden on the edge of the hill to get a good view of the valley below and waited. We had good fun, talking and telling jokes, but inside felt a little apprehensive. At one moment, when Alan went to fetch the drinks, Lin and I heard something like a prolonged sound of drums. We were quite disappointed when Alan told us it was just the sound a train made, carrying far in the valley. Later, however, just before we thought nothing was going to happen we heard some loud clinking sounds of metal against metal in the shrubbery, once and then again, which would be hard to explain. Unless those were members of the Sealed Knot, the English Civil War re-anactment society, who meet there every year, practising. But why so late at night? The two armies had broken off the fight as the night fell.
The shrubbery obscures the field a lot so we couldn't see far and noticed nothing unusual, not even later when we tried to approach the field from below. But I wouldn't give up, the Castle Inn can put you up in one of the rooms in the tower. Who knows what you might see and hear from there?
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The nursery rhyme - fact or fiction?
Favorite thing: For those of you who may never have heard the nursery rhyme I have mentioned, here it is:
'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.'
One of the possible interpretations of the poem identifies the 'fine lady' as Queen Elizabeth I, who travelled all the way to Banbury to see the newly erected enormous stone cross.
While the rings obviously refer to the jewelry a queen would wear, the bells probably refer to the fashion of wearing pointed shoes with bells attached favoured by the nobility of the time.
As Banbury was situated at the top of a steep hill, a white cock horse (a large stallion) was provided by the town's council to help carriages up the steep slope. When the Queen's carriage was going up the hill, one of the wheels broke. So the Queen mounted the horse and made the rest of the journey on horseback. The people of Banbury had decorated the horse with ribbons and bells and provided minstrels to accompany her, hence the 'music wherever she goes'.
We shall probably never know if this interpretation of the rhyme is true to fact. Never mind, it still sounds like a great story to tell.
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