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High Street in Witney
Grid reference: SP3509
Location: 51°46’48"N, 1°29’24"W
Population: 27,522  (2011)
Post town: Witney
Postcode: OX28
Dialling code: 01993
Local Government
Council: West Oxfordshire
Website: Witney Town Council

Witney is a historic market town on the River Windrush in Oxfordshire, 12 miles west of the county town, Oxford.

The place-name "Witney" is derived from the Old English for "Witta's island".[1] The earliest known record of it is as Wyttannige in a Saxon charter of AD 969. The Domesday Book of 1086 records it as Witenie.

Notable buildings

The Church of England parish church of St Mary the Virgin was originally Norman. The north porch and north aisle were added in this style late in the 12th century, and survived a major rebuilding in about 1243. In this rebuilding the present chancel, transepts, tower and spire were added and the nave was remodelled, all in the Early English style. In the 14th century a number of side chapels and some of the present windows were added in the Decorated style. In the 15th century the south transept was extended and the present west window of the nave were added in the Perpendicular style.[2] The tower has a peal of eight bells.[3]

Holy Trinity parish church, Woodgreen

Holy Trinity parish church in Wood Green was built in 1849 in a Gothic Revival rendition of Early English Gothic. St Mary the Virgin and Holy Trinity are now members of a single team parish.[4]

The butter cross

Witney Market began in the Middle Ages. Thursday is the traditional market day but there is also a market on Saturday. The buttercross in the market square is so called because people from neighbouring towns would gather there to buy butter and eggs. It was built in about 1600 and its clock was added in 1683.[5]

The Town Hall

The town hall was built in the 1770s.

Witney has long been an important crossing over the River Windrush. The architect Thomas Wyatt rebuilt the bridge in Bridge Street in 1822.[6]

The Friends Meeting House in Wood Green was built in the 18th century. Since 1997 Quakers in Witney have met at the corn exchange. The Methodist church in High Street was built in 1850.[7] It is now one of five Methodist churches and chapels in Witney.[8] The Roman Catholic parish of Our Lady and Saint Hugh was founded in 1913.[9] It originally used a chapel in West End built in 1881[5] but now has its own modern building.[10] The old chapel in West End is now Elim Christian Fellowship.[11]

West End, part of the road to Hailey, is one of Britain's best-preserved streets and inspired the song Just an Old Fashioned House in an Old Fashioned Street. Although it is called West End, it is actually on the northern side of the town and gets its name from when it was not actually in Witney parish but at the west end of the adjacent Hailey parish.

Witney Workhouse was on Razor Hill (now Tower Hill). It was designed by the architect George Wilkinson and built in 1835–36. It had four wings radiating from an octagonal central building, similar to Chipping Norton workhouse, which also was built by Wilkinson. His younger brother William Wilkinson added a separate chapel to Witney Workhouse in 1860. In the First World War the workhouse held prisoners of war.

In 1940 the workhouse was converted into Crawford Collets[12] engineering factory under the direction of Leonard Frank Eve. The chapel was made the factory canteen. In 1979 Crawford Collets had the main buildings demolished and replaced with a modern factory, but preserved the entrance gate and former chapel. In 2004 the modern factory was demolished for redevelopment. The gate and chapel have again been preserved and the former chapel converted into offices.[13]


Witney has been famous for its woollen blankets since the Middle Ages.[14] The water for the production of these blankets is drawn from the River Windrush, which was believed to be the secret of Witney's high-quality blankets. Mops were also traditionally made by the blanket manufacturers, at one time every ship in the Royal Navy had Witney mops aboard. The Blanket Hall in High Street was built in 1721 for weighing and measuring blankets.[5] At one time there were five blanket factories in the town but with the closure of the largest blanket maker, in 2002, Early's, the town's blanket industry completely ceased production. Early's factory, once a vital and important part of the town's history, has now been demolished, and is the site of several new housing estates.

Witney United FC retains its nickname "The Blanketmen" from the town's traditional trade. One of the oldest mill sites in the town, New Mill, where there has been a mill since the Domesday Book, now houses the head office of Audley Travel. The tailor-made tours travel company moved to the site in 2006.[15][16][17]

For many years Witney had its own brewery and maltings: J.W. Clinch and Co, which founded the Eagle Maltings in 1841. Courage took over Clinch's and closed it down, but since 1983 Refresh UK's Wychwood Brewery has brewed real ales in the Eagle Maltings. In 2002 Refresh UK contracted to produce ales for W.H. Brakspear, who had sold their former brewery in Henley-on-Thames for redevelopment. Refresh UK also brews ale for the Prince of Wales' Duchy Originals company.


Witney railway station in 1962

The Witney Railway opened Witney's first station in 1861, linking the town to Yarnton where the line joined the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway. In 1873 the East Gloucestershire Railway opened from a new station, linking Witney with Lechlade and Fairford. The Great Western Railway operated services on both lines and eventually took them over. In 1962 British Railways closed the EGR completely and withdrew passenger services from the Witney Railway. In 1970 British Railways closed the Witney Railway completely and it was dismantled.

In February 2015 Witney Oxford Transport (WOT) proposed the reopening of the railway, with a station at Witney, as an alternative to improvements to the A40 road proposed by Oxfordshire Council.[18]


Witney has four museums. Cogges Manor Farm Museum, in the 13th-century manor house[19] and farm of Cogges, represents farming and countryside history. Witney and District Museum has many artefacts and documents representing the history of the town. Witney Blanket Hall, built in the 18th-century, showcases both the history of the Hall and of Witney's blanket industry and has Witney blankets for sale. The Wychwood Brewery has a museum open at weekends.


Witney United Football Club played in the Hellenic League Premier Division, until they dissolved in the 2012-2013 season. The Witney and District League is a local association football league with about 32 clubs in five divisions. Witney Rugby Football Club[20] first XV plays in the RFU South West 1 East.[21] Wychwood Ladies Hockey Club play in the Trysport Hockey League. Witney Hockey Club[22] men's first XI plays in the England Hockey Men's Conference East division[23] and its ladies' first XI plays in South Clubs' Women's Hockey League Division 3A. Witney Swifts Cricket Club[24] first XI plays in Oxfordshire Cricket Association Division Three.[25] Witney Houstons Basketball Club plays in the Oxford and Chiltern League.[26]

The Toleman Group Motorsport racing team was once based in Witney until it was rebranded Benetton Formula in 1986, the team itself stayed in Witney until 1992 when they moved to Enstone eventually being rebranded in 2002 as Renault F1 when the team was purchased by the French Renault car company, the team competed as Renault F1 until 2011 when it was again rebranded this time under the "Lotus Renault GP" name due to forging a partnership with the British Lotus Cars company, the subsequent year the team became Lotus F1 after they dropped the Renault name, the team was later re-purchased by Renault in late 2015 to become the Renault Sport F1 Team for 2016.

Notable people

Notable people associated with Witney include:

  • Lawson D'Ath, footballer, Northampton Town F.C. lived in Witney and attended Henry Box School
  • David Cameron, former MP for Witney in Parliament, and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Conservative Leader
  • Jamie Cook, footballer
  • Alan Dapre, children's TV show writer
  • Jorge Grant, footballer, Nottingham Forest F.C., attended Wood Green School.
  • Darrell Griffin, England international rugby league player
  • Douglas Hurd, former Conservative MP for Witney
  • Martin Jones, concert pianist
  • Simon King, Gillingham F.C. footballer, born in Witney and attended Henry Box School.
  • Graham Leonard, 130th Bishop of London, subsequently Prelate of Honour
  • Robert Llewellyn, Red Dwarf actor, author, attended Henry Box School and was expelled
  • Andrew Logan, artist, born in Witney
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw, TV and film actress, grew up in the town and attended Henry Box School
  • David Moss, footballer, Luton Town F.C., previously Swindon Town F.C. and Witney Town F.C.
  • Miss Read (Dora Saint), author, lived in Witney. The town was the inspiration for the fictional "Lulling" of the Thrush Green novels
  • Larry Sanders, Green party councillor and brother of US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders
  • Patrick Steptoe, pioneer of fertility treatment and attended Henry Box School.
  • Shaun Woodward MP, Conservative and then Labour MP for Witney; also Labour MP for St Helens South
  • Robbie Mustoe, footballer, Middlesbrough F.C.


  1. Ekwall, Eilert (1960) [1936]. Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 528. ISBN 0198691033. 
  2. Sherwood & Pevsner, 1974, pages 843–845
  3. Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell ringers, Witney & Woodstock Branch
  4. "Church of England Parish of Witney". Witney Team Parish. http://www.witneyteamparish.org.uk/. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 846
  6. Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 847
  7. "High Street Methodist Church". Witneymeth.org.uk. http://www.witneymeth.org.uk/. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  8. Curtis, Brian. "Witney". http://www.oxfordshirechurches.info/Witney.htm. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  9. 1&1 Website Builder. "The Parish of Our Lady & St. Hugh Catholic Church". http://www.ourladyandsthugh.org.uk/2.html. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  10. Curtis, Brian. "Witney, Our Lady & St Hugh (RC)". http://www.oxfordshirechurches.info/WitneyRC.html. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  11. "Find a Church". Find a Church. http://www.findachurch.co.uk/search/church_view.php?church_id=19602. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  12. "Crawford Collets". Crawford Collets. http://www.crawford-collets.com/. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  13. Curtis, Brian. "Witney, Workhouse chapel". http://www.oxfordshirechurches.info/WitneyWorkhouse.htm. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  14. Clare Sumner. "history Witney Blanket Story – A brief history of the wool trade in the Witney area". Witneyblanketstory.org.uk. http://www.witneyblanketstory.org.uk/WBP.asp?navigationPage=Brief. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  15. Blackden, Richard (21 December 2015). "3i bets on high-end tourism with Audley Travel". The Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/4e693ec6-ea22-3453-899d-64414afefc37. 
  16. "New Mill". http://www.witneyblanketstory.org.uk/WBP.asp?navigationPage=Sites&file=WBPPLACE.XML&record=New%20Mill. 
  17. "The fascinating history of Audley’s New Mill offices". Audley Travel. https://careers.audleytravel.com/our-journal/the-facinating-history-of-audleys-new-mill-offices/. 
  18. Elvery, Martin (5 February 2015). "Campaigners want new railway station at Yarnton to ease A40 congestion in West Oxfordshire". Witney Gazette. http://www.witneygazette.co.uk/news/11771480.Campaigners_want_new_railway_station_at_Yarnton_to_ease_A40_congestion/?ref=mr. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  19. Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 851
  20. "Witney Rugby Football Club". Witneyrfc.co.uk. http://www.witneyrfc.co.uk/. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  21. RFU Southern Counties North division
  22. "Witney Hockey Club". Witneyhockey.org.uk. http://www.witneyhockey.org.uk/. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  23. "England Hockey League Men's Conference East Division". Englandhockey.co.uk. http://www.englandhockey.co.uk/fl/comps/cv.asp?d=11231. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  24. "Witney Swifts Cricket Club". Witneyswifts.co.uk. http://www.witneyswifts.co.uk/. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  25. "Oxfordshire Cricket Association". Oxfordshire Cricket Association. http://www.oxfordshirecricketassociation.org.uk/tables/tables.asp?Division=3. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  26. Witney Houstons Basketball

Sources and further reading

  • Jenkins, Stanley (2013). The Witney & Fairford Branch Through Time. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 1445616491. 
  • Jenkins, Stanley (2010). Witney: A History. Phillimore & Co. ISBN 1860776205. 
  • Monk, William J (1894). History of Witney. Witney: Witney Gazette. 
  • Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). Oxfordshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 843–851. ISBN 0-14-071045-0. 
  • Townley, Simon C. (ed.); Baggs, AP; Chance, Eleanor; Colvin, Christina; Cooper, Janet; Day, CJ; Selwyn, Nesta; Williamson, Elizabeth et al. (2004). A History of the County of Oxford. Victoria County History. 14: Witney and its Townships: Bampton Hundred (Part Two). Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer for the Institute of Historical Research. pp. 1–170. ISBN 978-1-90435-625-7. 

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