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Places to visit

Discover more about Witney blankets and the woollen industry in general by visiting these museums, record offices and websites.

Bradford Industrial Museum and Horses at Work
Moorside Mills
Moorside Road
Bradford BD2 3HP
Telephone: 01274 435900
E-mail: industrial.museum@bradford.gov.uk
Website: www.bradfordmuseums.org/bim/bim_main.htm

Housed in Moorside Mills, which was built as a small worsted spinning mill about 1875, Bradford's Industrial Museum has displays of textile machinery, particularly relating to wool production, as well as steam power, engineering and motor vehicles. The museum is also home to a team of working horses.

Facilities: museum shop, café, demonstrations and exhibition programme. The reserve and reference collections may be viewed by prior arrangement.

Cogges Manor Farm Museum
Church Lane
Oxfordshire OX28 3LA
Telephone: 01993 772602
Website: www.cogges.org

Cogges Manor Farm Museum is a unique working museum of Victorian rural life in Oxfordshire, set in an historic Manor House and Cotswold stone farm buildings. A very early handloom from Early's blanket company is displayed in one of the barns.

Facilities: café, museum shop, school visits.

Coldharbour Mill
Coldharbour Mill
Devon EX15 3EE
Telephone: 01884 840960
E-mail: info@coldharbourmill.org.uk
Website: www.coldharbourmill.org.uk/

Coldharbour Mill was built in 1799 as a woollen and worsted mill by Thomas Fox, a Quaker. It still produces worsted knitting yarn on its machinery, and spinning mules and looms can be seen working. The mill is powered by a water wheel and a 1910 steam engine which can be seen working on special event days.

Facilities: café, mill shop and exhibition gallery.

Cotswold Woollen Weavers
near Lechlade
Telephone: 01367 860491
E-mail: info@naturalbest.co.uk
Website: www.naturalbest.co.uk

Cotswold Wool Heritage Centre and working woollen mill housed in an 18th century building. A museum tells the story of wool in the Cotswolds and shows how fleece becomes fabric. Fine woollen textiles are made on traditional power looms: one of the last makes of fine cloth anywhere in the Cotswolds. The website contains useful information about the 'Cotswold Lion' sheep and wool textile manufacture.

Facilities: mill shop, coffee shop and on-site parking.

English Heritage National Monuments Record
Enquiry & Research Services
National Monuments Record
English Heritage
Kemble Drive
Swindon SN2 2GZ
Telephone: 01793 414600
E-mail: nmrinfo@english-heritage.org.uk
Website: www.english-heritage.org.uk/viewfinder

The National Monuments Record is one of the largest publicly accessible archives in the UK and is the biggest dedicated to the historic environment. It is maintained by English Heritage and is based at the National Monuments Record in Swindon where it has public search rooms. The Viewfinder website includes 78 photographs of Early and Co.'s blanket factory at Witney, taken in 1898 by the Oxford-based photographer Henry Taunt. Some of Taunt's images were used to illustrate a souvenir booklet, 'A visit to Witney and Witney Mills'. Prints of these photographs may also be viewed in the searchrooms, and copies can be purchased.

Farfield Mill
Farfield Mill
Garsdale Road
Cumbria LA10 5LW
Telephone: 01539 621958
E-mail: themanager@farfieldmill.org
Website: www.farfieldmill.org

Built in 1836 as a woollen mill, Farfield was a working mill right up to October 1992. It was converted into an Art and Heritage Centre and opened to the public in 2001. The Mill is on four floors, with 18 craft workshops for artists to make their work (which can be viewed by the public) and two large Gallery areas now displaying over 100 artists' work. There is a Heritage floor which is where a 300-year old Witney blanket handloom can be seen, as well as a weaving area where the public can view working dobcross looms which produce travel rugs and other textiles that can be purchased in the Mill shop.

Facilities: tearoom and mill shop.

Helmshore Mills Textile Museum
Holcombe Road
Lancashire BB4 4NP
Telephone: 01706 226459
E-mail: helmshore.museums@mus.lancscc.gov.uk
Website: www.lancashire.gov.uk/education/museums/helmshore/index.asp

Helmshore Mills Textile Museum is part of Lancashire County Museum Service. The site itself is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the machinery and collections on site are Designated as being of national importance. The site comprises two mill buildings. Whitakers Mill is a 19th century cotton condenser spinning plant. Higher Mill is an 18th century water-powered woollen fulling finishing mill and would have been used to process woven woollen cloth to a finished state. The museum demonstrates early mechanisation and also has the associated machinery for washing and cleaning fulled cloth as well as for raising the nap - for example, a teasle raising gig, dolly scourer and mangle. From the 19th century cotton industry there is preparation machinery, for example the carding engines and spinning mules (which spin the yarn).

Facilities: shop, café, demonstrations.

Hudson Bay Company Archive
Website: www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/index.html

Information relating to The Hudson Bay Company can acquired from the Hudson Bay Company Archives. A new feature is the Keystone database, which includes searchable descriptions of records and administrative histories.

Museums Resource Centre
Cotswold Dene
Oxfordshire OX29 7QG
Telephone: 01865 300972
E-mail: museums.resource.centre@oxfordshire.gov.uk
Website: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/museums

The Museums Resource Centre is the central store and conservation centre for Oxfordshire Museums Service. It has large collections of objects from all aspects of Oxfordshire history and archaeology. There are substantial holdings relating to the Witney blanket industry, especially from Early's and Smith's blanket companies, which include many rare and unique items such as mop-making equipment. A library is available for consultation on site which includes specialist publications, newspaper cuttings and other resources about the Witney blanket industry.

Facilities: access to the collections and library is by appointment only - please contact for details.

Oxfordshire Record Office
St Luke's Church
Temple Road
Oxford OX4 2HT
Telephone: 01865 398200
E-mail: archives@oxfordshire.gov.uk
Website: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/oro

Oxfordshire Record Office looks after historic documents relating to the county from about 1150 to the present day. The documents are made available to visitors and other enquirers through lists, catalogues and indexes. We receive as gifts or deposits a wide range of material from various sources. The records pertaining to blanket making and makers can be found among those relating to: Businesses - including Early's blanket company; Organisations - including the Witney Blanket Weavers' Company, incorporated by Royal Charter in 1711; Wills - including the wills of many blanket weavers, fullers, tuckers, and other blanket related occupations; Poor Law papers - including apprenticeship indentures; Personal and family papers.

Facilities: public searchroom with 45 seats, microfilm/microfiche readers and on-line terminals; tea/coffee in the reception coffee shop; video room; exhibition gallery; meeting room, which can be used by school parties, evening classes and other groups.

Oxfordshire Studies
2nd Floor
Central Library
Oxford OX1 1DJ
Telephone: 01865 815749
E-mail: oxfordshire.studies@oxfordshire.gov.uk
Website: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cos
See also: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/heritagesearch

Oxfordshire Studies collects, preserves and makes available to the public published, audio-visual and digital resources about Oxfordshire people, places and topics past and present. It incorporates the county's main local studies library and a major family history centre, and trained staff are always available during opening hours to help users to investigate the local history of their town, village or business or to trace their family history. Collections of local maps, newspapers, photographs and oral history recordings include many items relating to the blanket industry. The Taunt Collection of photographs includes a series of views of Early's blanket business taken in 1898, and there are many photographs of other aspects of the Witney blanket industry.

Facilities: there is no charge for using the service and no membership fee but there are charges for advance booking of equipment, for obtaining copies and, where appropriate, for the commercial use of material. Oxfordshire Studies can carry out limited research for people who are unable to come in but may have to charge a fee to cover the cost of staff time.

People's History Museum
The Pump House
Bridge Street
Manchester M3 3ER
Telephone: 0161 839 6061
E-mail: info@peopleshistorymuseum.org.uk
Website: www.phm.org.uk/

The People's History Museum is the national museum of the working people of Britain. The museum galleries are housed at the Pump House in Manchester and look at the lives of working people in Britain during the last 200 years. The museum's collections include a world renowned collection of banners, among which is the banner of the Witney branch of the Workers' Union, the first trade union to be formed in Witney.

Facilities: shop, café and textile conservation studio.

The Point Blanket Site
Website: www.pointblankets.com

Harold Tichenor is an important authority on Hudson Bay Company blankets, he has written two books about the blankets and has a website which is well worth a visit.

Victoria County History of Oxfordshire (VCH)
The County Editor
VCH Oxfordshire
Oxford University Library Services
Osney One Building
Osney Mead
Oxford OX2 0EW
Telephone: 01865 277239
E-mail: simon.townley@history.ox.ac.uk
Website: www.british-history.ac.uk
See also: www.oxfordshirepast.net

The Victoria County History is a long-term local-history project organized county by county, which aims to publish a fully referenced history of every town and village in England based on detailed research. In Oxfordshire, where the project is in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council and an independent VCH Oxfordshire Trust, fourteen volumes have been published so far, covering two thirds of the county. Some are available online with more to follow. The VCH's history of Witney (Victoria County History of Oxfordshire XIV) was published by Boydell & Brewer in 2004, and includes a detailed history of the blanket industry and of the buildings associated with it. Other sections discuss the town's origins and growth, its social and religious history, and its other industries, and there are separate chapters on surrounding rural villages. For further details of VCH publications or to buy the book, visit www.boydell.co.uk/vchpg1.htm. Full details of the project's other work are available at the Oxfordshire Past website.

Witney and District Museum
Gloucester Court Mews
High Street
Oxfordshire OX28 6JF
Telephone: 01993 775915
E-mail: witneymuseum@virgin.net
Website: www.witneymuseum.com/

Witney and District Museum tells the story of the town of Witney and its surrounding area over the last 1,000 years. It is housed in a Cotswold stone building which was once the home of Malachi Bartlett, who owned a local building firm and built nearby Cape Terrace, home to many mill workers over the years. The displays feature objects from important local industries including brewing, engineering and of course blanket making. The museum's collections include objects, photographs and documents relating to the Witney blanket industry.

Witney Library
Welch Way
Oxfordshire OX28 6JH
Telephone: 01993 703659
E-mail: witney.library@oxfordshire.gov.uk
Website: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/libraries

Library with a good local studies section; a local studies librarian is available one day a week (please contact for further details).