The Buttercross and old town hall, Witney
The Buttercross and old town hall, Witney

About Witney

The historic market town of Witney is located in west Oxfordshire, about 10 miles from the county town of Oxford, in the valley of the River Windrush. The broad High Street is lined by attractive older buildings and modern shops, many built of warm-toned Cotswold stone. The town is famous for its history as a centre of blanket manufacturing, but there is more more to Witney than blankets.

History of Witney

There was a settlement here in the Saxon period, when the town was in royal hands and was used as a meeting place for the king's council. In 1044 the manor of Witney was granted to the Bishops of Winchester, who built a palace near the current church. During the 13th century, Witney grew to importance as a centre of the wool trade and built a thriving industry based on cloth making.

In time the town specialized in the making of blankets and gloves, the high quality of which was said to have been a result of the properties of the River Windrush water used in the weaving process.

At the height of its popularity as a blanket manufacturing centre in the late 17th century over 3000 people in Witney were engaged in the trade. The Woolgate shopping area is a reminder of those heady days of the wool trade; this was where the blankets were weighed and measured to ensure they lived up to Witney's high standards of manufacture.

St Mary's Church
St Mary's Church, Witney

Parish Church

The church of St Mary the Virgin stands at the very south end of the long Church Green. It is an extraordinarily large building, easily seen from a distance because of its tall spire, which reaches to 150 feet. The church is primarily Early English in style, and features a 12th-century porch, lovely Decorated Gothic windows, the 14th-century Wenman Chapel, and excellent medieval brasses on the Wenman Tomb in the south aisle

To the east side of the churchyard stands a picturesque row of almshouses. Beyond, in the grounds of the local government office, stand the ruins of a 12th-century bishop's palace, built by the powerful Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester.

At the junction of Market Square and Langdale Gate stands a medieval butter cross, and opposite, Witney's town hall, raised on arches. Further along Market Square is the Corn Exchange, built in 1863 to replace the earlier 16th-century Corn Returns Office.

Henry Box School

On the west side of the broad green a tree-lined avenue leads to the Henry Box School. The school was founded by grocer Henry Box in 1660 as a public grammar school. It is now a Comprehensive School noted for its high academic standards.


The Cogges Farm Museum is located just outside Witney, and just a few miles west are the romantic ruins of Minster Lovell Hall.

To the north is Woodgreen, once a separate village but now swallowed up by the expanding town. Woodgreen was the model for Thrush Green in the series of popular novels by Dora Saint, better known by her pen name, Miss Read. Readers of the Thrush Green books will quickly recognise locations in Woodgreen, including the Three Pigeons pub, on the north side of the wide green that gives the suburb its name.


  • Early English parish church of St Mary the Virgin
  • Henry Box School, founded 1660
  • Medieval Butter Cross
  • 12th-century Bishop's Palace

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About Witney
Address: Witney, Oxfordshire, England
Attraction Type: Town
Location: On the A40, 10 miles west of Oxford
Location map
OS: SP358099
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


HeritageWe've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.

Historic Time Periods:


Find other attractions tagged with:

12th century (Time Period) - 13th century (Time Period) - 14th century (Time Period) - 17th century (Time Period) - Decorated (Architecture) - Early English (Architecture) - Medieval (Time Period) - Saxon (Time Period) -


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Cogges Manor Farm - 0.3 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Witney Bishop's Palace - 0.5 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Witney, St Mary's Church - 0.5 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote - 2.3 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Minster Lovell, St Kenelm's Church - 2.3 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

South Leigh, St James the Great - 2.3 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

North Leigh, St Mary's Church - 2.8 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

North Leigh Roman Villa - 4.2 miles (Roman Site) Heritage Rating

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