Witney is a historic market town on the River Windrush, 12 miles (19 km) west of Oxford in Oxfordshire, England.


St Mary the Virgin parish church
Location within Oxfordshire
Population27,522 (2011 census)[1]
OS grid referenceSP3509
Civil parish
  • Witney
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWitney
Postcode districtOX28
Dialling code01993
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament
WebsiteWitney Town Council
Arms of Witney Town Council
CrestOn a Wreath of the Colours upon a Mount Vert between a Crescent and a Star Or a Paschal Lamb proper.
BlazonVert on a Fess wavy Argent between in chief a sinister Glove of the last between two Leopards' Faces each holding in the mouth a Shuttle Or and in base a representation of the Butter Cross at Witney Gold a Barrulet wavy Azure.
MottoIngenio Floremus
Granted to the urban district council on 9 September 1955. [2]

The place-name "Witney" is derived from the Old English for "Witta's island".[3] 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.[4] The tower has a peal of eight bells.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

The Friends Meeting House in Wood Green was built in the 18th century. Since 1997 Quakers in Witney have met at the corn exchange.[9] The Methodist church in High Street was built in 1850.[10] It is now one of five Methodist churches and chapels in Witney.[11] The Roman Catholic parish of Our Lady and Saint Hugh was founded in 1913.[12] It originally used a chapel in West End built in 1881[7] but now has its own modern building.[13] The old chapel in West End is now Elim Christian Fellowship.[14]

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 High Street still has several older buildings, which are protected by the Witney and Cogges conservation area[15]. Many of these historical buildings are built from Cotswold stone and still have timber sash windows[16].

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.[17][18] In the First World War the workhouse held prisoners of war.

In 1940 the workhouse was converted into Crawford Collets[19] 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.[20]


Witney has been famous for its woollen blankets since the Middle Ages.[21] 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.[7] 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.[22][23][24]

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-upon-Thames for redevelopment. Refresh UK also brews ale for the Prince of Wales' Duchy Originals company.


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.

Reopening proposal

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 County Council.[25]

WOT and West Oxfordshire Green Party cite chronic traffic congestion on roads linking Witney with Oxford as a reason to reopen the railway. [26]


Witney has four museums. Cogges Manor Farm Museum, in the 13th-century manor house[17] 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 has three county secondary schools: Henry Box School, Wood Green School and Springfield School. In 1660 Henry Box founded Witney Grammar School. In 1968 it became the comprehensive Henry Box School.[27] In 1970 new school buildings were added to the original 17th-century premises beside Church Green.[8] Wood Green School[28] was founded in 1954 and is at the top of Woodstock Road. Springfield School[29] was founded in 1967 and is a special-needs school for pupils with severe learning difficulties. Springfield School senior section is a self-contained unit, with some shared facilities, within the grounds of Wood Green School. Wood Green was substantially expanded from 2000 to 2004; an additional block with 15 teaching rooms was added, together with a purpose-built sixth form centre, school restaurant and new AstroTurf pitch. 2009 saw part of the old Lower School being remodelled to provide new changing and shower facilities for the AstroTurf pitch and its many users from local community sports clubs.

The King's School is independent of Oxfordshire Local Education Authority. It was founded by Oxfordshire Community Churches,[30] an evangelical Christian organisation, in 1984.[31]

Cokethorpe School is an independent secondary school, founded in 1957.

St. Mary's School beside Church Green was established in 1813. It was a Church of England primary school but in 1953 it became a Church of England controlled School for Infant children, and the Junior children transferred to the Batt School premises.[32] Witney now has two Church of England primary schools: The Batt School[33] in Corn Street and The Blake School[34] in Cogges Hill Road.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School[35] is a Roman Catholic school founded in 1958.

Witney has five community primary schools: Madley Park Community Primary School,[36] Queen's Dyke Primary School,[37] Tower Hill Community Primary School,[38] West Witney Primary School[39] and Witney Community Primary School.[40] It also has one SEN primary school , Springfield School,which is part of the same school as Springfield secondary School . Springfield school (Primary) shares a building with Madley Brook Primary , but aside from sharing a building, some resources and integration , the schools run independently of one another.

The former Witney Technical College is now part of Abingdon and Witney College.[41] A complete rebuilding of its premises began in September 2008.


Witney United Football Club[42] first XI played in the Hellenic League Premier Division, until they dissolved in the 2012-2013 season.[43] Witney and District League[44] is a local association football league with about 32 clubs in five divisions. Witney Rugby Football Club[45] first XV plays in the RFU South West 1 East.[46] Wychwood Ladies Hockey Club, 1st play in the Trysport Hockey League Division 1 (http://www.trysportsleague.org.uk/default.aspx?id=9) & 2nd play in the Trysport League Division $ (http://www.trysportsleague.org.uk/default.aspx?id=12) And also Witney Hockey Club[47] men's first XI plays in the England Hockey Men's Conference East division[48] and its ladies' first XI plays in South Clubs' Women's Hockey League Division 3A.[49] Witney Swifts Cricket Club[50] first XI plays in Oxfordshire Cricket Association Division Three.[51] Witney Houstons Basketball Club plays in the Oxford and Chiltern League.[52]

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.


Witney, in recent times, has been a safe seat for the Conservative Party. Former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and former leader of the Conservatives and Prime Minister, David Cameron were both MPs for Witney. In the 1997 General Election, Shaun Woodward stood and won the seat as a Conservative, after Hurd retired. Woodward switched to the Labour Party in 1999.

In the 2001 General Election Woodward stood as the Labour candidate in the St Helens South constituency, and David Cameron retook Witney for the Conservatives. He became Prime Minister in coalition with the Liberal Democrats in May 2010 and continued after the 2015 election, in which the Conservative Party gained a majority, but retired to the backbenches after the referendum which rejected his government's recommendation to remain in the European Union. He stood down as an MP soon after, triggering a by-election which was held on 20 October 2016, and Robert Courts was elected. Courts was re-elected in 2017.

However Witney Town Council is currently controlled by the Labour Party[53] and the majority of the town of Witney's councillors on West Oxfordshire District Council are Labour. [54]


Witney is twinned with:


In July 2007 Witney saw its worst flooding in more than 50 years. Homes and businesses were evacuated and Bridge Street, a major road into the town and the only road across the Windrush, was closed. About 200 properties in central Witney were flooded, with areas around Bridge Street, Mill Street and West End the worst affected. The new and incomplete housing development Aquarius also suffered substantial flooding.

In 2008 further flooding contributed to the death of a 17-year-old boy who drowned in a culvert.[55]


Witney has a maritime climate type typical to the British Isles, with evenly spread rainfall, a narrow temperature range, and comparatively low sunshine totals. The nearest official weather station is Brize Norton, about 4 miles (6.4 km) southwest of Witney.

The absolute maximum recorded was 35.4c(95.7f)[56] in August 1990, although in a typical year the warmest day should only reach 29.5c(85.1f)[57] with an average of 14.6 days[58] reporting a maximum temperature of 25.1c(77.2f) or above.

The absolute minimum is −20.7c(−5.3f),[59] recorded in January 1982. In a more typical year the annual minimum temperature should be −8.1c(17.4f),[60] although a total of 47.1 nights[61] should report an air frost.

Rainfall averages slightly under 644mm[62] per year with more than 1mm of rain falling on just under 115 days[63] of the year.

Climate data for Brize Norton, elevation 88m, 1971–2000, extremes 1901–
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.7
Average high °C (°F) 6.9
Average low °C (°F) 1.3
Record low °C (°F) −20.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 59.84
Source: KNMI[64]


In May 2010, WitneyTV was launched as a non-profit online broadcaster with a weekly show that features local news and upcoming events within West Oxfordshire for the benefit of the community. An archive of videos featuring local attractions, clubs, organisations and previous shows is also available.

On 30 November 2012 WitneyRadio was launched. Providing hyper-local news, music and current affairs to the people of Witney and West Oxfordshire.

In April 2016 Witney Radio was granted a licence to broadcast on FM radio by the licensing authority OFCOM

14 July 2017 WitneyRadio began to broadcast on 99.9fm to Witney and West Oxfordshire under the licence granted by OFCOM The station broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with over 30 presenters from the local area. The station also broadcasts online for listeners outside of our broadcast area

11 Sept 2019 WitneyRadio Launches a new show with host Jake Woods entitled: "Movies you should see that I haven't seen".

Notable people

Notable people associated with Witney include:

See also


  1. "Census 2011 overview for West Oxfordshire" (PDF). District Data Analysis Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 January 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  2. "WITNEY TOWN COUNCIL (OXFORDSHIRE)". Robert Young. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  3. Ekwall, Eilert (1960) [1936]. Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 528. ISBN 0198691033.
  4. Sherwood & Pevsner, 1974, pages 843–845
  5. Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell ringers, Witney & Woodstock Branch
  6. "Church of England Parish of Witney". Witney Team Parish. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  7. Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 846
  8. Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 847
  9. Burford Quakers Archived 7 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. "High Street Methodist Church". Witneymeth.org.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  11. Curtis, Brian. "Witney". Oxfordshire Churches & Chapels. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  12. 1&1 Website Builder. "The Parish of Our Lady & St. Hugh Catholic Church". Our Lady and St Hugh. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  13. Curtis, Brian. "Witney, Our Lady & St Hugh (RC)". Oxfordshire Churches & Chapels. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  14. "Find a Church". Find a Church. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  15. Whitney and Cogges Conservation Area Report
  16. Timber windows in Witney
  17. Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 851
  18. The Workhouse: Witney Archived 21 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  19. "Crawford Collets". Crawford Collets. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  20. Curtis, Brian. "Witney, Workhouse chapel". Oxfordshire Churches & Chapels. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  21. Clare Sumner. "history Witney Blanket Story – A brief history of the wool trade in the Witney area". Witneyblanketstory.org.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  22. Blackden, Richard (21 December 2015). "3i bets on high-end tourism with Audley Travel". The Financial Times.
  23. "New Mill". =Witney Blanket Story.
  24. "The fascinating history of Audley's New Mill offices". Audley Travel.
  25. Elvery, Martin (5 February 2015). "Campaigners want new railway station at Yarnton to ease A40 congestion in West Oxfordshire". Witney Gazette. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  26. "Bid to reopen Witney train track ahead of key rail summit". Oxfordshire Guardian. Taylor Newspapers. 4 February 2016.
  27. Henry Box School Archived 12 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  28. "Wood Green School". Woodgreen.oxon.sch.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  29. "Springfield School". Springfield.oxon.sch.uk. 9 November 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  30. "Oxfordshire Community Churches". Occ.org.uk. 25 September 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  31. "Education | Oxfordshire Community Churches". Occ.org.uk. 12 December 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  32. "St. Mary's Infant School". St-marys-witney.oxon.sch.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  33. "The Batt C of E Primary School". Thebattschool.org.uk. 20 October 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  34. The Blake School Archived 28 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  35. "Our Lady Of Lourdes Catholic Primary School". Our-lady-of-lourdes.oxon.sch.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  36. "Madley Park Community Primary School". Madleybrook.org. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  37. Queen's Dyke Primary School Archived 27 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  38. "Tower Hill Community Primary School". Tower-hill.oxon.sch.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  39. West Witney Primary School Archived 1 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  40. "Witney Community Primary School". Witney.oxon.sch.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  41. "Abingdon & Witney College". Abingdon-witney.ac.uk. 14 October 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  42. "Witney United FC". Witneyunited.co.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  43. Hellenic League Premier Division Archived 15 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  44. "Witney and District Football". Witneyfootball.com. 29 October 2011. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  45. "Witney Rugby Football Club". Witneyrfc.co.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  46. RFU Southern Counties North division
  47. "Witney Hockey Club". Witneyhockey.org.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  48. "England Hockey League Men's Conference East Division". Englandhockey.co.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  49. South Clubs' Women's Hockey League Archived 21 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  50. "Witney Swifts Cricket Club". Witneyswifts.co.uk. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  51. "Oxfordshire Cricket Association". Oxfordshire Cricket Association. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  52. Witney Houstons Basketball
  53. "Witney Town Councillors 2019-2020".
  54. "West Oxfordshire District Council - Councillor information".
  55. "Family tribute to storm death teenager". Oxford Mail. Newsquest. 4 June 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  56. "August 1990 Maximum". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  57. "Annual average maximum". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  58. ">25c Max Days". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  59. "January 1982 Minimum". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  60. "Annual average minimum". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  61. "1971-00 Frost average". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  62. "Annual average rainfall". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  63. "Annual average raindays". Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  64. "Climate Normals 1971–2000". KNMI. Retrieved 28 February 2011.

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; Yates, Margaret (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.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)

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