Witney is an historic market town 12 miles to the west of Oxford, on the edge of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.
The town is now a large and vibrant location with a population of around 28,000 inhabitants.
History of Witney
This West Oxfordshire town was first recorded in AD969 and may have got its name from the Saxon King’s Council known as the Witan, which met here.
Like much of the Cotswolds, Witney owed much of its fame and fortune to the medieval wool trade years and right up to 2002 there was one mill in Witney still producing the famous “Witney blankets”.
During the medieval years, Witney grew, employing thousands of people producing the blankets and other woollen goods. The Blanket Hall in the High Street was built after a charter was granted by Queen Anne and all the blankets manufactured were taken there for quality measures before being exported throughout the world.
Witney parish church is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin and stems from Norman origins. The church has seen many alterations with a restoration project taking place during the Victorian years. The spire is 150 feet high and is a focal point from the town centre, looking out on to the Church Green.
There are other buildings of historic interest including the 17th century Buttercross, the Town Hall, the Holloway’s Almshouses built during the 1700’s and are close to the parish church also there are two more groups of Almshouses in the town.
The present shopping centre is vibrant with a good selection of national chain stores and small independent shops
The town is just off the A40, 12 miles from Oxford, 36 miles from Gloucester, 24 miles from Swindon and 8 miles from Burford.
Perhaps surprisingly, for a town of this size, there is no train station in Witney. However, if you want to really arrive in style, you could always fly into nearby Oxford International airport.
There are a number of car parks around the town and parking is free of charge in all of the council owned and maintained car parks.
Witney and District Museum
Witney and District Museum was opened during 1996, Witney Museum can be found in an inconspicuous Cotswolds stone building in the centre of the town.
Witney and District Museum was at one time the home of a local businessman, Malachi Bartlett, a proprietor of a local building firm who constructed many of the buildings at Witney Railway Station, since demolished and the Sainsbury supermarket built on much of the site.
The museum collection includes items from some of the the local industries including brewing, glove making, blanket manufacturing and engineering. The exhibits also include historical documents and photographic records of Witney, the towns historic buildings, transport, a tithe map, the town stocks and relics of the former WW1 RFC airfield which open in March 1918.
Other items which are of interest include tools belonging to Malachi Bartlett, domestic pottery and tiles from the Bishops Palace and from the ruined manor house at nearby Minster Lovell.
The Bartlett Taylor Gallery is on the upper floor and is used for temporary exhibitions.
Wheelchair access to ground floor only.
The Bishops Palace
The Bishop’s Palace in Witney can be found near to St Mary’s church, in the centre of the town, on Church Green.
The historic building known as the Bishops Palace was built by the Bishop of Winchester in the 12th and 13th centuries and later became the Manor House. In 1757, the manor house was acquired by the Duke of Marlborough.
Excavations from 1984 through to 1992 uncovered a large tower from the early 12th century. Other finds included coins found in robber trenches which would indicate that some of the manor buildings were demolished during the English Civil War, the rest were destroyed during the 18th century. The archaeology remains which are visible are protected from the elements under a modern roof cover.
To help visitors there is an interpretation centre with a model of the former building in all its artistic glory and some remains of the building can be seen in the Witney and District Musem.
Places to eat and drink
As with an large, vibrant town, Witney has plenty of places to eat and drink. One such place is the Hollybush, on Corn Street. You can read more about them in our review, here.
Places to stay
As you might expect, thanks to its popularity and location, there are lots of places to stay in Witney.
These range from luxury hotels to budget hotels, as well as camp sites and B&B’s. Something for everyone if you’re planning a stay.