WITNEY, a parish and market town in the hundred of Bampton, county Oxford, 6 miles W. of Bampton, and 11 N.W. of Oxford, with which it is connected by a short line of railway. The parish, which is watered by the river Windrush, over which is a bridge of three arches, and traversed by the road from Cheltenham to Gloucester, comprises, besides the town of Witney, the chapelries of Crawley, Curbridge, and Hailey. It is a place of considerable antiquity, having been given by Bishop Ailwyn to Winchester Cathedral, and by Bishop de Blois to St. Cross. It sent members to parliament in the 33rd year of Edward I. and 5th Edward III., about which time a tournament was held here by Humphrey de Bohun and Aylmer de Valence. The market cross was built in 1683, by William Blake, Esq., of Coggs, and was repaired in 1811. The town consists chiefly of two streets, one above a mile in length. It contains a townhall, built over a piazza in which the market is hold, a Blanket Hall, erected in 1721 for the transaction of business, but now used as a warehouse, two branch banks, and in the chapelry of Curbridge the union workhouse. The population in 1851 was 3,099, inhabiting 630 houses, and in 1861, 3,458, inhabiting 741 houses. The manufacture of blankets, duffels, or pilot cloths, and other woollen goods, for which the town has long been celebrated, still occupies a considerable number of hands, although it has somewhat declined since the introduction of machinery; tiltings, gloves, and wool-stapling are also carried on, and a large trade is done in matting. The local affairs of the town are administered by two bailiffs, two constables, and other officers, chosen at the annual court leet held at Michaelmas, but the jurisdiction belongs to the county magistrates. A court baron is held twice a year by the Duke of Marlborough, as lessee of the manor under the Bishop of Winchester. The Poor-law Union comprises 42 parishes, of which one is in county Berks, two in Gloucester, and the remainder in Oxford. It is also the seat of a new county court and superintendent registry. The river Windrush abounds in trout and crayfish. The living is a rectory and vicarage in the diocese of Oxford, value £1,000, in the patronage of the Bishop of Winchester. The church, dedicated, to St. Mary, has on the N. side a mortuary chapel of the Wenman family. It has within the past year been very handsomely restored at the cost of £4,000, including the restoration of the chancel, which was undertaken by the present rector, at a cost of £1,000. The designs were by Mr. Street. There is also a district church recently erected in Wood Green. The Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Independents, and Society of Friends, have chapels. The free grammar school for 30 boys was founded and endowed in 1663, by Henry Box; the Bluecoat school in 1723, by John Holloway; and another school by William Blake in 1693; there are, besides, National and Sunday schools, and several almshouses. The charities, including the school endowments and Freeland's estate for the poor, produce about £650 per annum. Market day is on Thursday, and a cattle market is held on the last Thursday in every month. Fairs are held on Easter Tuesday, Holy Thursday, Thursdays following 9th July, 24th August, 8th September, 1st December, and the Thursday before 10th October for cattle and cheese.The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003
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