BANBURY has spent a lot of time burying its past in order to make way for a bright new future which is now bursting upon it, complete with a revamped shopping centre, new industries and improved rail links. House prices shot up to Oxford and Home Counties levels when the M40 arrived and its strategic position halfway between Birmingham and London could be cashed in. Commercial business parks and light industry lie to the east, Silverstone is 15 miles away, Eddie Jordan’s Jordan Grand Prix is 10 miles away and Benetton racing team is based nearby at Enstone. The older part of the town is late-Victorian or early-Edwardian, but most properties are post-war. Small semis sell from £150,000, but on the more prestigious western side large Sixties’ houses in landscaped gardens command £400,000. Parking at the station is easy enough.
The M40 has also had a mixed effect on the villages within five miles of Banbury. To the north-west, Warmington, which is very picturesque, Shotteswell and Mollington have all been adversely affected by noise; but Wroxton, a charming village with winding lanes, thatched cottages, grassy verges and a duck pond, has been made more accessible without suffering any serious damage. Just off the A422 to Stratford-upon-Avon (handy for a shot of Shakespeare), it preserves its tranquillity and yet is only a few minutes’ drive from the motorway. It has a school and a couple of pubs, but no shop – people nip over to Horley or do their main supermarket shopping in Banbury. A small semi-detached brick-and-stone cottage with two bedrooms will cost about £279,000; a Grade II listed, 17th-century thatched cottage of a similar size, £400,000.
On the whole, commuting professionals tend to prefer Bloxham, with the result that prices here are slightly higher than in neighbouring villages. There are several 16th- and 17th-century examples built in the local ironstone and buried down pretty lanes. The village has a parade of shops, a public school and good state schools. A couple of small estates of modern houses have brought more cars that clog the centre.
Shenington, too, is a popular and pretty village, full of lovely old golden stone houses. The presence of a rubbish tip not far away does deter some house-hunters, although most residents feel it is not a problem. There is also a neighbouring airfield where noisy go-karting is held, but this happens only a few times a year. The pub has seats outside on the verge of the green, and the primary school is a high-flyer. The charming cottages nearby fetch around £240,000 for three bedrooms, while larger four-bedroom stone conversions go for around £510,000.
Sibford Ferris, a little further south, has delightful mullioned houses with broad grass verges and a mellow blend of stone and thatch. It also has a village shop and post office and a well-respected Quaker school. Two-bedroom terraced houses cost £240,000. The price for a five-bedroom period house is about £535,000.