The Blanket Hall
Number 100 High Street, Witney, just south of the town bridge.
Situated at Number 100, High Street, the Blanket Hall was home
to the Witney Company of Blanket Weavers. It was erected at a
cost of around £430 in 1721, following the formation of the
Company (or guild) of weavers in 1711. For the first few years
the members met at the Staple Hall Inn or other locations in
Witney but decided that their own premises were necessary and so
brought a house and orchard in the High Street from a part time
weaver and inn keeper John Butler. This was then pulled down and
the Blanket Hall erected, the members met there for the first
time in December 1721 .
Queen Anne granted the Witney weavers a charter of
incorporation, which gave them permission to form a company to
regulate the products and business activities of the many small
independent weavers in and around Witney for a twenty-mile
radius. This type of measure had been in discussion for many
decades before, when it had been realised that by imposing
standards and rules in cloth production the reputation of local
goods and therefore the livelihoods of the local producers would
be protected. An oil painting of Queen Anne painted by Sir
Godfrey Kneller was hung up in the principal room of the
building for many years and their accounts show that a sum was
set aside regularly 'for cleaning and varnishing Queen Anne'.
This painting is now in the collections of Oxfordshire Museums
The Blanket Hall's chief purpose was to be a central meeting
place of the company and somewhere that locally made blankets
could be weighed, measured, inspected and marked. The large room
upstairs, known as 'The Great Room', was where the main business
of the company was debated and in addition to this there was a
kitchen, cellar and outbuildings.
It was built in the Baroque style and has a panel on the outside
bearing the inscription 'Robert Collier Master 1721' and the
arms of the Witney Company of Blanket Weavers . A public
clock hangs on the outside of the building which was paid for by
the company in 1722. This was at first was only a striking clock
with a bell under a cover on the roof (this is still in place)
but had no clock face: later a face with a single hand was added
to the front of the building .
The Blanket Hall clock with the arms of the Witney Company of
Blanket Weavers and the inscribed keystone below it.
William Smith (1815-1875), the founder of Smith's blanket
company, at one time lived in the Blanket Hall using the attics
to store potatoes and later ran a brewery from the cellar of the
The Blanket Weavers Company came to an end in 1847 and since
then the Blanket Hall has had many business uses; more recently
it has become a private house. The internal structure has been
subject to many alterations and only the external walls and a
floor survive of the original building .