Brief History of Witney
Witney grew around the banks of the river Windrush and the first mention of it was an Anglo-Saxon estate in the late 900’s. The town was listed in the Domesday Book compiled in 1086 as ‘Witenie’ and had 2 mills that were under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester. The total population at this time was 56 households with a total tax assessed at 30 geld units.
The Bishops of Winchester chose to site a palace in the town next to the parish church in the 12th Century. The towns expansion from the Church Green and Corn Street area outwards and increase in population were mainly due to their planned borough scheme. A charter for a market was granted and a market place with a cross was also constructed at the end of Church Green.
Witney continued to grow as a Market Town on the main road between London and Wales and became a centre for Blanket making using wool from Cotswold sheep and the water of the river Windrush in its process, so much so that by the late 1800’s Witney was famous the world over for its blankets.
Further information on the history of Witney and surrounding villages can be found at British History Online
The current Town Hall dates from about 1785 but there was almost certainly a wooden build structure on the same site long before that. Further information on the building can be found on the Town Hall Information Sheet by Witney Town Council.
The Corn Exchange was built in 1863 by the Corn Exchange Company which replaced a 16th Century building previously used as a Corn Returns Office. Further information on the history of the building can be found in the Corn Exchange Booklet by Witney Town Council.
Local History and Family History Resources
The Town Council hold a small number of historical items and records relating to the town and its inhabitants. original Burial Records for the Tower Hill Cemetery from 1857-1936 are deposited with the Oxfordshire History Centre in Oxford.
The Witney and District Museum
Has many artefacts relating to the town’s industrial and social history. There are exhibitions on chosen subjects and several sets of records and photographs are held there. Further information can be found here http://witneyhistory.org/
The Oxfordshire History Centre
The Centre holds a wealth of information regarding Witney which can be viewed by appointment https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/public-site/oxfordshire-history-centre
The Oxfordshire Family History Society (OFHS)
The Society is a group of dedicated volunteers who have worked to transcribe all of the parish registers across Oxfordshire, including Witney. Further information can be found on their website http://www.ofhs.org.uk/