Witney High Street

A walk down Witney High Street 

In August 2012 I had to take my daughter to Witney for an interview.  Whilst she was there I had a quick wander down the High Street with my camera.

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Witney is 12 miles west of Oxford in Oxfordshire.  There is evidence of both Iron Age and Roman settlements in the area, however the place-name ‘Witney’ is a Saxon name attested to in a charter of 969 as ‘Wyttannige’.  It appears as ‘Witenie’ in the Domesday Book of 1086. The name means ‘Witta’s island’.

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By the end of the Middle Ages Witney was a lively market town with a developing industry making woollen blankets and gloves and by 1800 there were five working mills in and around Witney.  The last blanket mill closed in 2002.

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In 1711 the Weavers formed a Guild and were granted a Charter by Queen Anne. They then built the blanket hall in the High Street. All blankets made in Witney had to be taken there to be measured and weighed, thus ensuring the very high quality of the blankets to be maintained.

Witney grew on the banks of the river Windrush, which helped the brewing industry, and its importance as a strategic location for travellers is reflected in the number of old inns that exist. The Angel is a perfect example. Looking out onto the Church Green, in the 17th Century it was known as The Greyhound.

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The Market Square

The market square which lies at the junction of the two main streets contains the Buttercross, a medieval marketing and meeting place where women from neighbouring villages gathered to sell butter and eggs. It has a steeply gabled roof surmounted by a clock-turret added in 1683.

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Opposite is the 17th century Town Hall. Market Square widens into Church Green which is dominated by the tower and spire of the 13th century church of St. Mary.

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Church of St Mary the Virgin

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.

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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. The tower has a peal of eight bells.

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Outside the Co-Op…

Witney Art Studios have the first floor over the local Co-Operative supermarket.  As you walk down the High Street you might not notice the rather evil looking character climbing up the wall with a large pocket watch over his shoulder.

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It is obviously a piece of street art but I’m not sure what the story is behind it.

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