FROM SCRATCHWOOD TO WYCHWOOD

Banbury

market town, with some industry, mostly built of brick and modest and unspectacular in its architecture. The bricks were made from the clay laid down in the lowlands East of here by that post-glacial rush which opened Watford Gap.

A section of the town centre has retained ancient street patterns of narrow lanes and narrower alleys. In many English towns, such areas were regarded as an embarrassment as recently as ten years ago, and where they weren't swept aside by the scratch of a draughtsman's pen, they were left to decay, infested with dingy junk shops, greasy caffs and shady solicitors (both meanings). The only reason they remained was that the town couldn't afford the draughtsmen.

The plan, such as it was, was to let the fabric deteriorate until buildings actually started to collapse. Or the land values would collapse enough to make it worth someone's while to throw together an office block.

In the last ten years, those old quarters still remaining have been rediscovered, gleefully, and taken in hand. Banbury was one of the lucky ones. Now, there are wholefood restaurants, poster shops, shops selling accoutrements for the executive home, shops selling clothing for the slinkily rich. It can't have happened too long ago, because the paint is still fairly clean and bright, and some of the junk shops have yet to make the transition to antique emporia. Don't mock, it's better than an office block.

Opposite this Site of Special Sentimental Interest risesa twentieth century refurnishment of a nineteenth century copy of an eighteenth century copy of a Palladian temple. Beneath the ornate triangular pediment some words are neatly carved, picked out in gold:-

"CASTLE SHOPPING CENTRE"

That will confuse the archaeologists of the next millennium.

Shopping centres you know about.

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