Museum plans blanket coverage

Richard Martin outside the Blanket Hall in Witney

The Blanket Hall in Witney is to become a museum for the town’s once famous trade

First published in News
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Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

WITNEY has been famous for its blankets since the Middle Ages.

Now plans have been submitted to bring the town’s Grade II* listed Blanket Hall – which was used to weigh and measure blankets – back into use as a new museum to showcase the trademark items.

Richard Martin, who is leading the project, said: “I feel this is an important part of Witney’s heritage.

“We want to explain what blankets meant to Witney.

“This is the first time members of the public would be able to come back into Blanket Hall for almost 40 years.

“The museum will give visitors the chance to reproduce some of the blankets that were made in Witney, such as the ones used by every sailor in Nelson’s Navy and blankets used by cowboys.”

The Blanket Hall, in High Street, was built in 1721 and blankets were made there until 1847. The water for the production of the blankets came from the River Windrush, which was believed to be the secret of their quality.

After the hall closed, it was used as a brewery, an office of birth, marriages and death and a mineral water business.

But it was converted into a house in 1976 and was the home of Brian Crawford, former managing director of Witney blanket makers Early’s, until his death in August 2011.

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In his will, Mr Crawford said he wanted to see Blanket Hall reconnected with the blanket industry.

His wish could be granted after an application was submitted to turn the hall into a museum. It includes plans for a cafe and office space.

Witney historian Stanley Jenkins said: “It’s a historic building so it will be good to see something done with it.

“It will also be good to see more attractions at that end of the town.”

After Mr Crawford’s death, the house was given to the Bartlett Taylor Trust, based in Church Green, Witney.

The trust hopes to lease the hall to a new company called the Witney Blanket Hall Company, headed by Mr Martin, who is managing director of Cotswold Woollen Weavers in Filkin.

If planning permission is granted, it is hoped the museum will open next Easter.

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