About the Project
The Witney Blanket Project came about in response to the closure in 2002 of Early's, the last working blanket mill in Witney. Blankets had been made in the town for well over 300 years during which time a world-wide reputation for quality was established with trading links as far-flung as North America and Australia.
Despite its world renown, blanket production in Witney was a very localised industry employing workers mainly from the town and surrounding villages. With the closure of Early's it was felt that the industry should be recorded, particularly the memories of the people that worked in the mills. During the last days of production Oxfordshire Museums Service visited Early's factory and photographed all aspects of the work there.
Contribute to the Witney Blanket Story
If you have information, photographs or documents you would like to contribute to the Witney Blanket Story, email Oxfordshire Museums Service at:
For full contact details go to Resource Centre > Places to visit, and scroll down to Museums Resource Centre.
The project aims
- to undertake an oral history programme recording people's
memories of the blanket industry
- to pull together the various sources of information relevant to
the industry, including objects, documents, photographs and books
- to digitise the collections of objects, photographs and
documents relating to the industry
The project was not intended to focus on any one particular blanket firm but a much greater quantity of information survives from Early's and Smith's than other companies, so they have been most frequently used as examples on these pages.
All this information has been brought together and made available for public access on this website. The project has also produced a touring exhibition supported by handling material and a town trail showing blanket-related places in Witney.
A significant part of this project has been the new research contributed by the oral history programme. A special appreciation is extended to all who gave information and interviews for the oral history record: Peter Baston, David Buckle, Alan Crawford, Brian Crawford, Keith Crawford, Lawrence Dixey, Doreen Foggett, Mike French, Jack Kersey, Rosemary Lee, Allan Pullin, David Smith, Yvonne Souch and those others who did not wish for their names to be disclosed.
We would like to thank the following people for generously sharing their time, knowledge and resources about the industry: Brian Crawford, Keith Crawford, Early's Archive Trust, Mike French, Stanley C. Jenkins, David Smith and Jonathan Smith.
Oxfordshire Museums Service has collections of blanket related artefacts from both Early's and Smith's, the largest manufacturers of the later 20th century. Early's Archive Trust (EAT) amassed a collection of objects and records now deposited with the Museums Service and with the Oxfordshire Record Office. The David Smith Collection of museum objects and photographs are also deposited with the Museums Service.
Oxfordshire Studies holds photographic collections of the industry and oral history recordings. Oxfordshire Record Office has large holdings of blanket related documents.
Extensive collections of artefacts, images and documents are held by Witney and District Museum. There are also significant collections in private hands.
Partners and funding
This project was only made possible by a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Match funding was generously provided by Early's Archive Trust, the RE Early Charitable Settlement, Oxfordshire Cotswolds Tourism, Oxfordshire County Council, the South East Museums Libraries and Archives Service, West Oxfordshire District Council and Witney Town Council.
The project's success is testimony to the cooperation and enthusiasm of the project partners, especially Cogges Manor Farm Museum, Oxfordshire Cotswolds Tourism, Oxfordshire County Council Education Department, Oxfordshire Studies, Oxfordshire Record Office, the Victoria County History, West Oxfordshire District Council, Witney District History Teachers' Group, and Witney and District Museum.
The project was managed by Philip Platt, Curator of Social History. The Project Officers were Clare Sumner, Kitty Smith and Claire Worland. Thanks must also go to Katharine Compton who helped to establish its feasibility. Studio photography was by Joan Brasnett of Oxfordshire Museums Service.
The creation and design of this website has been made possible by the efforts of Jamie Everitt and Clare Sumner of Oxfordshire Museums Service with technical support from consultant Richard Light. It is based on the MODES museum documentation system and powered by MODES Web Server. The Project logo was created by local artist Michael Johnson.