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
Bradford BD2 3HP
Telephone: 01274 435900
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
Oxfordshire OX28 3LA
Telephone: 01993 772602
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.
Devon EX15 3EE
Telephone: 01884 840960
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
Telephone: 01367 860491
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
Swindon SN2 2GZ
Telephone: 01793 414600
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
Cumbria LA10 5LW
Telephone: 01539 621958
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
Lancashire BB4 4NP
Telephone: 01706 226459
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
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
Museums Resource Centre
Oxfordshire OX29 7QG
Telephone: 01865 300972
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
Facilities: access to the collections and library is by appointment only - please contact for details.
Oxfordshire Record Office
St Luke's Church
Oxford OX4 2HT
Telephone: 01865 398200
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.
Oxford OX1 1DJ
Telephone: 01865 815749
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
Manchester M3 3ER
Telephone: 0161 839 6061
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
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
Oxford University Library
Osney One Building
Oxford OX2 0EW
Telephone: 01865 277239
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
Oxfordshire OX28 6JF
Telephone: 01993 775915
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.
Oxfordshire OX28 6JH
Telephone: 01993 703659
Library with a good local studies section; a local studies
librarian is available one day a week (please contact for