For centuries, Witney was associated with the making of woollen cloth and the blankets which carried the name of the town around the world. In 1711, ‘the blanket-weavers inhabiting in and near Witney’ obtained a royal charter to establish a company to regulate their trade. In 1721, the company of weavers erected a ‘Blanket Hall’, in the High Street. In 1844, the hall was sold and became the ‘Blanket Hall Brewery’. The Baroque-style building is now a private house.
A print and text about The Company of Weavers.
The text reads: This venue was originally a cinema, which first opened its doors as the Electric Theatre in 1913. The building had seating for 400, with separate entrances for ‘different classes of patrons’. A trio of musicians accompanied the silent films. By 1921, the Electric Theatre had been renamed the People’s Palace, which itself was rebuilt and enlarged in 1933. For the next fifty years The Palace entertained film goers, amongst the last movies to be screened was Star Wars, Return of the Jedi in 198_. Until very recently it served as The Palace gym and nightclub.
The name of this pub was chosen due to the long association between Witney and the making of woollen cloth and blankets. In 1711, the local weavers obtained a royal charter to establish a company to regulate their trade. Known as the ‘Company of Weavers’, in 1721, the consortium erected the Blanket Hall on the High Street to maintain the quality of their wares.
Throughout this venue you will find artwork adorning the walls, which help to tell the story of the historic town of Witney.
A print and text about Ronnie Barker.
The text reads: Ronnie Barker made his first radio appearance in 1956, and landed his first film role two years later in Wonderful Things! However it was in The Frost Report, as a sketch-writer and performer, that he really made his mark. It was also where he met his future comedy partner Ronnie Corbett.
The Two Ronnies was first aired in 1971, and over the next fifteen years became a British institution. Barker also had huge success with the sitcoms Porridge and Open All Hours.
Following his retirement in 1987, Barker settled in the nearby village of Dean. He opened an antiques shop called The Emporium on Chipping Norton’s High Street. Although not a commercial success the shop allowed Barker to indulge in his passion for antiquities, and gave him the opportunity to live his later years away from the media spotlight.
A photograph and text about the flying shuttle.
The text reads: The flying shuttle, which was invented by John Kay in 1733, made a huge contribution to the Industrial Revolution. It was the first device of the modern era to significantly enhance productivity, so much so, that weavers, fearing for their livelihoods, petitioned the King to stop it. The wheeled shuttle greatly accelerated hand weaving and required only one person to operate it, as weaving was traditionally performed by two people. Riots and the relentless persecution of Kay contributed to his self-imposed exile in France. Unable to profit from his patents in Britain he sold the rights to the French government leading to the mechanization of his invention in 1753.
A photograph and text about the warp-weighted loom.
The text reads: The warp-weighted loom is a simple and ancient form of the loom in which the vertical yarns known as the warp, hang freely and are tied to hanging weights to keep the threads taut. The device dates back to the Neolithic period, with the earliest evidence of cultures using warp-weighted looms found in modern day Serbia. They were used extensively in ancient Greece and subsequently spread across Europe, remaining in use in Scandinavia right up until the 1950s.
A photograph and text about Sir Winston Churchill.
The text reads: Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on 30 November 1874 at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. When Neville Chamberlain resigned as prime minister in 1940, Churchill took his place. His refusal to surrender to the tyranny of Nazi Germany, and his powerful and inspiring speeches united the British public, and helped to win the war.
In addition to his many political achievements, Churchill was also a gifted artist and accomplished historian who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. Churchill died on 24 January 1965 and was given a state funeral.
A print and text about Sir Henry Rawlinson.
The text reads: Sir Henry Rawlinson was born in nearby Chadlington on 5 April 1810. He was regarded as the western world’s foremost knowledge of ancient Mesopotamia. In this capacity, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in February 1850.
A print and text about Fair Rosamund.
The text reads: Rosamund Clifford was the fabled mistress of King Henry II. According to folklore, Rosamund was murdered by the jealous Queen Eleanor at the Royal Palace of Woodstock, near Oxford.
A photograph and text about the Buttercross, c1900.
The text reads: Witney’s historic Buttercross, which is situated directly outside these premises, was originally a simple market cross. In 1606 Richard Ashcombe left £50 to build a house ‘over and above’ the cross. Twelve pillars were erected around it to support the new structure, which was used as a place to sell butter and other perishable goods. The clock turret was added in 1683 following a bequest by local draper William Blake.
External photograph of the building – main entrance.
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