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Witney is the largest town in West Oxfordshire and enjoys a scenic location on the banks of the River Windrush. It’s often recognised as one of the best places to live in Britain, which isn’t surprising given the local amenities and historic character.
The town owes much of its development to a prosperous wool trade. Blankets and gloves were manufactured here and exported globally as far back as the Middle Ages. While that industry has since declined, Witney manages to preserve the rich legacy. The picturesque high street is crammed with 18th century architecture. Some of the highlights include the Town Hall, Blanket Hall and the Victorian Corn Exchange.
While many visitors come to marvel at these historic treasures, the independent shops arguably hold more appeal to residents. A twice-weekly farmers’ market is another major attraction, and all the leading retailers can be found at the two shopping centres: Marriotts Walk and The Woolgate Centre. Coupled with the fashionable eateries, local cinema and leisure centre, Witney promises a vibrant day out.
Just a short walk from the bustling centre, the Witney Lake Country Park unfolds. This 30-hectare expanse is a wildlife haven and the perfect setting for a summer picnic. Other nearby villages offer similar appeal, with picturesque cottages overlooking rolling Cotswold countryside. Minster Lovell remains the most sought-after and is home to the impressive ruins of a manor house. These romantic locations add to the sense of exclusivity and give a wide array of property choice for those relocating to the Witney area.
Although Witney is no longer home to a railway station, residents have the convenience of nearby services from Combe, Hanborough or Finstock. All of these sit on the Cotswold line, connecting to Oxford in the south and many of the picturesque villages to the north.
Alternatively, for main line services across the UK, Oxford station can be reached in 22 minutes via the A40. From here, half-hourly trains depart to London, while frequent services connect to Manchester and Newcastle via Birmingham New Street.
Given the town’s proximity to the A40, those commuting by car enjoy similar convenience. This major transport link passes through Oxford before finishing at the M40. As such, London is easily reached in the south, as well as Birmingham and other cities in the north.
The catchment area surrounding Witney covers an excellent choice of top-performing schools. The most sought-after local primaries include The Blake, Madley Brook and West Witney. These are all judged ‘good’ by government watchdog Ofsted, while The Batt primary school is deemed ‘outstanding’.
The closest independent school is the highly renowned Cokethorpe. This sits in 150 acres of scenic Oxfordshire parkland. It caters to pupils aged four to 18, and consistently outperforms many other independent schools in the area.
Alternatively, parents have a choice of two coeducational state secondary schools. The Henry Box School was founded in 1660 and now boasts academy status. Alternatively, Wood Green School offers impressive sixth form facilities and provides vocational courses alongside the traditional A level subjects.
Otherwise, young adults can choose from a huge range of courses, including HNDs and apprenticeships at the nearby Abingdon & Witney College.
Witney is a town steeped in history. The earliest records suggest a settlement thrived here in AD 969, and Roman ruins have been uncovered in the area. Although little is known of this time, the Domesday survey of 1066 gave an insight into the agricultural-based economy of Witney during the Middle Ages.
It began with two mills for grinding corn and would later develop into the prosperous wool industry that put Witney on the map. In the early 1800s, the town had five working mills that produced world-renowned blankets and gloves. These were once exported as far as America, often exchanged for furs and other native produce.
This roaring trade would slowly decline with the onset of the 20th century. Early’s factory was one of the leading manufacturers, and the last blanket maker to close in 2002. Thankfully, this rich heritage is kept alive at the Cogges Manor Farm museum, where visitors can learn more about the influential woollen trade.
Places of Interest
There is plenty to see and do in Witney. From historic treasures to family-friendly attractions and sports clubs, here are some of the highlights:
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