The Banbury Gullivers
JONATHAN SWIFT'S INSPIRATION
Tony Gulliver's ancestors came from Banbury and were buried in St Mary’s churchyard. In the early 18th century, Jonathan Swift would sometimes stay in the town when travelling between his native Dublin and Oxford or London. Of course he probably wouldn't have come on a private guided tour, and even then Banbury may not have ranked as one of England's top tourist destinations. Nevertheless, he stayed at a lovely hotel, the Whately Hall Hotel, which is still there right opposite the church. Swift refers to the Gulliver tombs in the preface of his great fictional satire (1726):
Although Mr. Gulliver was born in Nottinghamshire, where his father dwelt, yet I have heard him say his family came from Oxfordshire; to confirm which, I have observed in the churchyard at Banbury in that county, several tombs and monuments of the Gullivers.
So the tombs in Banbury, commemorated today by a plaque, inspired Swift to the name of his famous protagonist in Gulliver's Travels. The church was rebuilt in 1790 and just one Gulliver tomb remains, that of Tony Gulliver's great great great grandparents, Samuel and Mary.