We not only swept chimneys, we occasionally demolished them.

Our stories about chimney sweeps (Memory Lane, February 7 and March 21) reminded one reader of the dramatic end of one landmark at Witney.

The 100ft high chimney at Walkers’ blanket mill in The Crofts was reduced to a pile of rubble by the team of demolition experts seen here in 1983.

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The Oxford Mail reported: “After just over an hour of hacking away at the chimney like lumberjacks, they heard a slight rumbling noise and then the structure keeled over, landing dead on target.”

Demolition contractor John Barney, of Sidney Street, Oxford, said: “We hit the mark, though it took a time coming.”

The chimney crash was the high spot in a seven-week demolition job of the former blanket mill, which had closed three years earlier.

Oxford Mail:

Fifty homes were to be built there.

Among the crowd of sightseers who turned out with their cameras to see the demolition was 69-year-old Ivy Claridge.

She said: “I saw the chimney when it first went up in 1933 and I worked there for six years.”

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No explosives were used because of the fear of breaking windows in nearby houses.

The workmen broke a hole in the chimney base with sledgehammers and pickaxes.

Then, as Mr Barney said, “you keep bashing until a crack appears and then you run.”

Witney became well known for the production of wool for blankets and other essentials over the course of several centuries.

The surrounding grasslands were ideal for breeding and grazing sheep.

Witney also had a fast-flowing river to power the mills and, in later years, good road and rail links.

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By 1950, as old techniques were replaced by modern manufacturing processes, Witney firms were producing a quarter of Britain’s blankets.

Further improvements were made in the 1960s, but then the industry declined, mainly because of the increasing popularity of duvets over blankets.

The Smith and Philips’ factory closed in 1975, the Witney Blanket Company by 1977, and Walker’s in 1980.

The last firm to make genuine Witney blankets was Early and Marriott.

They were originally two firms but had merged in 1960 to fight increased competition.

They managed to keep going until 2002 when the factory finally closed on July 19.

Its 72 workers were given the chance to relocate to Ilkeston in Derbyshire after a bid to find an alternative site in Witney failed.

Early’s, founded in 1669, was one of the oldest companies in the country.

Read more from this author

This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.ffrench@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailAndyF