History of Witney
Witney is steeped in history and welcomes you to experience the old and the new, intertwined in a unique and enchanting setting.
In 1086, Witney (or 'Witenie') was recorded in the Doomsday book as having a population of 300.
During the Civil War of 1135-1150, between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, the Palace was fortified by Bishop of Winchester, Henry de Blois (a grandson of William the Conqueror), who, although he was Stephen's brother, changed allegiance to Matilda when Stephen failed to make him Archbishop of Canterbury. It was at this point that the town really started to prosper.
Witney continued to grow over the next few centuries and its importance as a world leader in wool, blanket and cloth making was indisputable. Many sovereigns visited the town, and James I (1700) actually held parliament in a house in Corn Street, now situated on the corner of Corn Street and the Crofts.
The Town Hall dates back to the 17th century and was rumoured to have been built by an apprentice to Sir Christopher Wren. Corn was bought and sold under the building's arches until the Corn Exchange was opened in the 19th century.
The Buttercross dates back to pre-Saxon times when, for centuries, it was a religious site. It was altered and rebuilt over the years and in the 16th Century farmers' wives would sell their excess butter and eggs, hence its name. The current building is medieval but features a clock that was added in 1683 by William Blake of Cogges.
Wool and woollen cloth making have been an important trade of Witney since the Iron age. This industry continued to flourish due to the areas’ rich countryside and fast flowing River Windrush.
By 1850 there were 6 major blanket manufacturers controlling the Witney trade. One in particular dominating the blanket business was Charles Early and Co, who had several premises in the area and a family history of blanket making for over 350 years.
For further information please visit: www.witneyblanketstory.org.uk