Witney borough: Economic history, the industrial revolution in Witney c.1800-1900

Pages 88-97

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 14, Bampton Hundred (Part Two). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2004.

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During the 19th century Witney was transformed by mechanization, the introduction of the factory system, and the emergence of large commercial family firms. (fn. 1) The blanket industry remained dominant, its success in adapting to new conditions largely accounting for the town's continued prosperity: in 1851 blanket-workers still comprised almost 19 per cent of the working population, by far the largest single group, (fn. 2) and in the 1880s the industry was still called the town's 'staple' trade. (fn. 3) Difficulties in the 1850s, when the town's population fell through emigration, (fn. 4) may be partly attributable to the lack of a railway, which added significantly to transport costs and, by hindering coal-supply, delayed the adoption of steam power: such disadvantages were cited frequently by promoters of the Witney railway, (fn. 5) who soon after its opening in 1861 were credited with having rescued the town from the 'lethargy' which handicapped 'all localities . . . unconnected by railway communication with the busy world'. (fn. 6) By the 1880s business was judged to be sound despite the 'prevalent commercial depression', thanks primarily to the thriving blanket industry; new industries were being attracted, and visitors 'had only to walk down the town and note the improvements in shop fronts . . . to see that business was in a prosperous state'. (fn. 7)

37. Woodgreen blanket factory (later Henry Early's), mid 19th century.

By the 1850s almost a fifth of the town's working population were wage-earning factory workers, but Witney retained the range of trades, crafts, and industries typical of a small manufacturing and market town. Retailers, including food and drink suppliers and publicans, accounted in 1851 for 11 per cent of the working population, and miscellaneous manufacturers (including leather and metal-workers) for another 11 per cent, while service trades (including building) comprised over 7 per cent. A significant agricultural element also remained: nearly a tenth of the working population in 1851 were farmers or agricultural labourers, with another 3 per cent engaged in predominantly agricultural crafts such as smithying or coopering, and 7 per cent described merely as 'labourers' in either agriculture or industry. Lawyers, doctors, churchmen, and those of independent means, important to the town's social life, represented over 5 per cent. Fourteen per cent, mostly but not all women, were domestic servants in private houses or inns, and comparable numbers of women supplemented family income as dress- or bonnet-makers, glovers, or laundresses. (fn. 8)

The Blanket Industry c. 1800–1900

Between 1800 and 1840 Witney's blanket industry was transformed by the introduction of spring-looms and mechanized factory-spinning, the largely contemporaneous gathering of hand-loom weavers into factories, and the consequent replacement of large numbers of small master-weavers by a few dominant family firms with sufficient capital. In large part such developments were a response to potentially catastrophic competition from Yorkshire with its more advanced industrialization, and although further mechanization in Witney was delayed until after the railway opened in 1861, by then the town's surviving manufacturers seem to have largely fended off the threat and established a modern industry with secure markets. (fn. 9)

Mechanization before 1800, other than waterpowered fulling and gig-mills outside the town, was apparently confined to a horse-powered rowing machine provided by the Blanket Company for its members in 1782, used for raising the nap after fulling. (fn. 10) In the early 19th century water-powered spinning was introduced by tenants of New Mill: Edmund Wright, killed in an accident at the mill about 1808, acquired some notoriety among local cloth-workers for his innovations, and following a fire in 1818 John (d. 1862) and Edward Early (d. 1835) and their brother-in-law Paul Harris installed new spinning and carding machinery built by Edmund Ogden of Rochdale (Lancs.). (fn. 11) In the early 1820s they undertook spinning for other manufacturers, though principally supplying their own operations. (fn. 12) Spinning machinery may have been introduced to Crawley Mill soon after, (fn. 13) and in the mid 19th century there was a small horse- or donkey-powered spinning factory on Corn Street. (fn. 14) Power-looms seem not to have been introduced until the late 1850s or 1860s, (fn. 15) though spring-looms, which could be operated by one rather than two weavers, were introduced around 1800, reportedly by one of the Earlys, and by the 1830s were commonplace. (fn. 16)

By then the gathering of weavers into factories was evidently advanced. John Early's Newland factory, open from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. and requiring constant attendance from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., employed 52 hand-loom weavers, earning between 7s. and 18s. a week according to age and experience. Weavers were disciplined for misconduct or absence by temporary confiscation of their shuttle, which was considered 'a disgrace' among the men, although subjection to new conditions was not yet wholly accepted: Early asserted that weavers were 'not so good economists of their time as spinners and fullers', and that they had 'a dislike to be under restriction as to time . . . and are less under control'. An employee confirmed that many weavers came 'sauntering in' partway through the week, and consequently had to overwork to make up time. Some weavers continued outside factories, but seem to have become rarer. (fn. 17)

A few family firms with their own factories became increasingly dominant, a process common elsewhere in the 1830s, but more often associated with introduction of power-weaving. (fn. 18) By the 1820s the number of substantial blanket-manufacturers in Witney had fallen from 60 or 70 to a dozen or fewer, mostly members of the Early and Collier families, together with John Brice, John Brooks, Thomas Collins, George Hathaway, and James and William Marriott. (fn. 19) By 1838 there were only eight principal manufacturers, all Earlys or Colliers, with 'a few' others 'employing very small numbers'; the largest employer was John Early (d. 1862), who had 70 weavers and spinning or fulling machinery at Witney and New Mills, while most others employed 20–35 weavers, and Robert Collier only four. (fn. 20) By 1851 John Early employed 144 people, 28 of them children and 16 of them women. (fn. 21) Smaller firms continued to be taken over: Thomas Collins's weaving shops and small blanket factory on the north side of Corn Street, gradually extended from the late 18th century, were sold on his bankruptcy in 1814 and acquired in 1830 by Horatio and Robert Collier, themselves in difficulty a few years later, (fn. 22) while premises belonging to a small manufacturer at West End were sold in 1847. (fn. 23) Meanwhile the Blanket Company, widely perceived by the 1810s as an anachronistic hindrance, declined rapidly. (fn. 24) Membership fell sharply from around 1800, (fn. 25) and though officers were elected until the Company's official closure in 1847, by the 1830s it had effectively ceased to function. (fn. 26)

The severe depression of the blanket industry in the late 18th century at first continued: in 1807 Arthur Young commented that for many years the decline had seemed irreversible, attributing incipient recovery largely to mechanization and to the decline of BlanketCompany regulation. (fn. 27) By the 1810s the threat posed by Yorkshire factory-owners was fully recognized by Witney manufacturers seeking contracts: in 1814 John Early (d. 1862) wrote from London that '[Benjamin] Gott is here himself and means to tender for the whole of the woollens . . . it is the general opinion that these Yorkshire blades will do us, and something must be attempted to prevent the same if possible'. (fn. 28) Small-scale improvements, notably introduction of foreign wools in blending, were aimed at making Witney blankets more competitive, though in the 1830s Witney manufacturers were still unable to compete on price without massive reinvestment in new machinery. (fn. 29) Their continued success seems to have rested in part on existing reputation and contacts, particularly with the Hudson Bay Company and London dealers, combined with partial mechanization and vigorous pursuit of new markets. (fn. 30) Probably equally important was the flexibility enjoyed by a close-knit group of family firms prepared to cooperate in securing and sharing contracts: thus in 1814 Robert Collier offered to share with the Earlys a large government order beyond his capacity, a form of cooperation which remained common throughout the 19th century. (fn. 31) In 1819 the town was reportedly 'full of business', (fn. 32) and although in 1838 Yorkshire competition remained 'injurious', trade was said to have nearly doubled in recent decades and remained 'brisk'. Temporary slackness a few years earlier had allegedly been overcome without serious hardship. (fn. 33)

Notwithstanding the industry's success, Arthur Young acknowledged that mechanization had chiefly benefited manufacturers rather than weavers and other employees, whose wages in 1807 were depressed and whose numbers he claimed had fallen from 400 to 150 over five years. (fn. 34) The catastrophic impact on rural spinners was emphasized by William Cobbett in 1826, describing the 'decay and misery' of villages such as Withington (Glos.) formerly dependent on work from Witney. (fn. 35) Initial hostility to the spring-loom was widespread in the town, weavers fearing that it would halve employment and viewing it 'as sly as a cow at a bastard calf', though in 1838 John Early alleged that they had come to prefer it and that success in finding new markets had avoided unemployment. Certainly Witney manufacturers seem to have displayed a genuine paternalistic concern for their workforce, and both John and Edward Early commented on the 'good understanding' between master and men which prevented exploitation and undercutting. There were then reckoned to be approaching 300 weavers in all, a few of them immigrants from Gloucestershire: though wages in Witney were smaller, conditions and regularity of employment there were nevertheless thought preferable. (fn. 36) A weavers' and spinners' association formed in 1823 was evidently a benefit club rather than a union, and had apparently closed by 1838. (fn. 37)

38. Witney Mills: spinning shed, c. 1898

In 1858 the blanket trade was said to be 'leaving' Witney, and certainly during the 1850s and 1860s the town's population fell, partly through emigration. (fn. 38) The problems were evidently temporary, however, the second half of the century being marked by further consolidation by two or three large firms, increased mechanization, and successful expansion of markets. In particular Charles Early (d. 1912), in business with his father John (d. 1862) from 1851 and operating as Charles Early & Co. from 1864, gradually expanded his business and premises, acquiring overall control of New Mill in stages from 1883, taking over the separate firm of Edward Early & Co. (with premises at New Mill and West End) in 1894, buying Woodford and Witney Mills (where he was co-lessee) in the 1880s, and acquiring Henry Early's business at Woodgreen and West End apparently in the 1890s. (fn. 39) William Smith (d. 1874), who began as an errand boy working for Edward Early (d. 1835) and his son, established his own business on High Street around 1850, having bought John George's small spinning concern on Corn Street with capital from a short-lived brewery venture. His initial concentration on mop-making presumably avoided direct competition with Charles Early, from whom he received help when additional capacity was needed, and by the 1870s, with new premises on Bridge Street, he was well established as a leading manufacturer; his sons and successors William and Harry took over James and Albert Collier's business at Crawley Mill and Corn Street about 1879. (fn. 40) James Marriott (d. 1904), whose family worked as dyers, coal merchants, and farmers for much of the 19th century, established a third successful company at the newly built Mount Mills about 1900, concentrating on wholesale rather than retail. (fn. 41) The only other firm by then was the Witney Blanket Company, established around 1885 as mail-order suppliers rather than manufacturers. (fn. 42)

39. Witney Mills: power-loom weaving shed, c. 1898.

40. Witney Mills: fulling stocks, c. 1898.

William Smith installed Witney's first steam engine around 1851, apparently for spinning, and John Early may have introduced power looms in 1858; (fn. 43) thereafter, with cheap coal available by rail from 1861, steam power became common. New Mill acquired an engine that year, (fn. 44) and in 1865 Charles Early extended his powerweaving plant at Witney Mill, several decades after similar developments in Yorkshire. (fn. 45) His later purchases allowed for greater integration, and by the 1890s Witney Mill was a fully mechanized and integrated site, with most processes, from spinning to finishing, powered by steam and supplemented by water. Steam-heated chambers allowed tentering in wet weather. (fn. 46) Smith similarly modernized his plant in the 1860s and 1870s, while in 1904 Marriott's 'new and spacious blanket mill' included 'the most complete and up-to-date plant'. (fn. 47) Occasional fires allowed for further updating of machinery, as at Charles Early's New Mill in 1883 or at Witney Mill in 1905. (fn. 48)

The industry's main products continued to be blankets and duffels, with waggon-tilts, rugs, and mops. Both Edward Early (d. 1835) and his protégé William Smith specialized in mops and tilts, securing large government orders, while in the 1890s Charles Early (and by then Smith's) produced 'all kinds' of blankets, rugs, and coverlets. Machinery at Witney Mills included a few Jacquard looms, used for rugs of elaborate figured design destined for South Africa or South America. (fn. 49) Foreign markets continued to expand: by the 1820s and 1830s sales through the Hudson Bay Company were supplemented by direct orders from cities in the United States, Newfoundland, Bermuda, and Australia, as well as from Scotland and much of southern England, (fn. 50) and in 1895 both Early's and Smith's enjoyed a 'worldwide' reputation. (fn. 51) International links were further reflected in the industry's wool supplies, drawn in the late 1830s partly from Russia and the Mediterranean, (fn. 52) and in the 1890s from Australia, New Zealand, and East India as well as England. (fn. 53)

41. Occupations in Witney borough, 1851.

Other Trades and Industries, 1800–1900

Though the 19th century saw the foundation of some long-lasting retail and manufacturing firms, the overall balance of trades and occupations in the town remained broadly similar to earlier, with few large employers to rival the blanket manufacturers. The second largest sector was the leather industry, still closely associated with wool supply, and including tanning, shoemaking, and particularly gloving, which together accounted for over 12 per cent of recorded occupations in 1851. Building-workers comprised around 6 per cent, metalworkers under 1 per cent, and miscellaneous craftsmen or manufacturers around 2 per cent. Among retailers, suppliers of food and drink remained prominent, with bakers, butchers, grocers, and confectioners accounting (with their assistants) for over 5 per cent of recorded occupations, brewers and publicans for 3 per cent, and other retailers (including drapers and up to forty shoemakers or cobblers) for nearly 7 per cent. Apart from the few glove-manufacturers, reliant chiefly on out-workers, only the builder James Long and the farmer and woolstapler James Clinch employed twenty people or more, the next largest non-agricultural employers being the ironmonger and iron-founder Joseph Staples with nine, a cabinet-maker and upholsterer with seven, and a butcher with eight. A farmer at Newland, with 10 farm workers, employed another 33 labourers in his capacity as a road surveyor, though not necessarily within the town. (fn. 54)

Retailers Prominent retail businesses, all concentrated around High Street and Market Place, included W. H. Tarrant and Sons' grocers, tea-dealers, and provision merchants, established on the former Lamb Inn site at the corner of Corn Street and Market Place by the 1850s. In the 1890s the firm had its own plantation in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and imported specialist brands claimed to be rare outside 'large cities'. Saltmarsh and Druce's grocers, established about 1880 also at Market Square, stocked similar goods and were wine and spirit merchants, while Valentine and Barrell, who opened a large store at Market Square about 1898, were tailors and drapers, dealers in glass, china, and furniture, and undertakers. Several other late 19th-century businesses, though under relatively new ownership, claimed a long existence, among them Clappen and Co.'s tailors, drapers, and silk mercers. (fn. 55) There were a few booksellers, stationers, and printers: James Shayler, a stationer and bookseller by 1815, printed sale catalogues and handbills, and from 1861 the firm published the newly founded Witney Express. (fn. 56) As earlier there were several watch- or clockmakers, one of whom in the 1890s was also a jeweller and tobacconist, (fn. 57) and there were usually three or four retail druggists and chemists. (fn. 58)

Inns and Breweries Up to forty inns, public houses, and beer-sellers were listed in the early 19th century, and a 'considerable' trade in malt was mentioned in 1840: five maltsters were recorded in 1823–4, and eight or nine in the 1850s, (fn. 59) some of them relatively large commercial brewers supplying several houses. Clinch's Eagle Brewery was established about 1839 by John Williams Clinch (d. 1871), whose family in the early 19th century were farmers, maltsters, and wool-dealers, and who also founded Clinch's bank. (fn. 60) A stone-built brewery, 'the best Victorian industrial building in Witney', was erected west of Church Green before 1841. (fn. 61) The business seems at first to have been partly dependent on other family ventures, but from the 1880s, when William Clinch went into partnership with his sons-in-law, it expanded rapidly: in 1892 (as Clinch and Co.) it became a private limited company, the number of tied houses increasing from 17 in 1867 to 72 in 1891, although outside Witney it served a relatively small rural area. (fn. 62) A rival, in the former Blanket Hall on High Street, was established soon after 1847 by Edward Early's son Joseph and Edward's employee and tenant William Smith, at first using brewing equipment left by the disbanded Blanket Company. Smith expanded the plant but, following disputes with his partners, set up the White Hart brewery and malting business on Bridge Street about 1851; though that proved successful, he sold it a few years later to set up as a blanket manufacturer. (fn. 63) The Blanket Hall Brewery, continued by Early and, later, by the Shillingford brothers and by Arthur Bateman of Asthall, was bought by Clinch's in 1890, with around 23 tied houses. (fn. 64) The Britannia Brewery east of the market place, reportedly established by William Gillett in 1860, was sold with four tied houses in 1875 to Hunt Edmunds Brewery of Banbury, which subsequently acquired numerous Witney public houses. (fn. 65)

Building Trades Building-workers included some thirty stonemasons and as many carpenters or joiners in the mid 19th century, with rather fewer slaters, plasterers, plumbers, glaziers, painters, and sawyers. (fn. 66) Of particular note were the builders and timber-merchants James Long and Malachi Bartlett, who cooperated on several major buildings including the new Wesleyan chapel (1849–50). Bartlett (d. 1875) moved to Witney from Devon about 1836, and from 1852 worked in partnership with his son William Christopher (d. 1918), the firm continuing as Bartlett Brothers into the late 20th century; besides burning their own bricks and lime, Bartletts' reputedly installed the first steam-driven sawmill and machine-shop in the district, and by 1880 used mechanical concrete-mixers. (fn. 67) Also important in the late 19th century was William Cantwell of Witney and Newland, builder of several local factories including Witney Mills and New Mill. (fn. 68) Small quarries around Corn Street continued to be worked: several there were mentioned in the 1840s and 1850s, (fn. 69) and the Union quarry near Tower Hill, opened for building Witney workhouse in 1835, (fn. 70) was later let to Bartletts', which reportedly employed over fifty men with mechanical stone-dressing and cutting machinery. (fn. 71) After 1861 stone was also brought in by rail: Bartletts' imported 500–600 tons of Bath stone a year through Witney and Faringdon stations, while some local stone (not necessarily from Witney) was exported. (fn. 72)

Leatherwork and Gloving Leather-workers in the earlier 19th century included numerous shoemakers, up to seven saddlers and harness-makers, four or five curriers and tanners, and a few fellmongers, (fn. 73) the latter connected, as earlier, with wool supply for blanketmanufacturers. (fn. 74) Thomas Sylvester (d. 1853), a fellmonger established on High Street by 1823, had three employees in 1851, and, like other Witney curriers and leather-cutters, supplied craftsmen in surrounding villages as well as in the town. (fn. 75) The farmer Samuel Shuffrey's tannery at Woodgreen, established reportedly in 1810, continued until the 1890s when it was superseded by a steam-powered saw-works and joinery, and in 1851 employed three men and an apprentice. (fn. 76)

42. Leigh and Sons' ironmongers, Market Square, c.1930.

43. Boiler supplied for Witney Mills by Daniel Young of Witney, 1896.

A 'glove manufactory' housed in a three-storeyed building behind premises at Church Green, sold in 1833, apparently closed soon after. (fn. 77) Glove-making nevertheless provided work for nearly 150 inhabitants in 1851, mostly women employed as out-workers by three or four Witney manufacturers. (fn. 78) Of those by far the largest was William Pritchett, a Woodstock glover established at Newland before 1830; in 1851 he employed several hundred workers, many presumably in surrounding villages. (fn. 79) About 1885 Pritchett's son William entered into partnership with William Webley, of another prominent Woodstock gloving family, who seems to have been largely responsible for the construction soon afterwards of a mechanized factory at Newland, with steam-powered machinery for grounding and finishing skins. In the 1890s the factory specialized in officers' dress-gloves, waterproof driving-gloves made from tanned sheepskins imported from Cape Colony, and doeskin and buckskin gloves, the latter made from reindeer skin; some were exported to Europe, the USA, and Japan, the firm reportedly being 'taxed to keep up with demand'. Of 200–300 employees around sixty worked at the factory, the rest being makers and finishers in Witney and surrounding villages. (fn. 80) The firm also set up as blanket- and cyclemanufacturers at Worsham Mill in Asthall, though the blanket business failed in the early 20th century, apparently through poor management. (fn. 81)

Metalwork, Engineering, and Miscellaneous Trades Metal-working and ironmongery employed only small numbers, though in some long-lasting businesses. Among them were Staples and Lea (later Leigh and Jackson), established on High Street before 1840; besides being ironmongers they were gas-fitters, bellhangers, locksmiths, and brass- and iron-founders with their own forge, providing fittings for Witney church in the 1840s, and from the 1860s leasing the town gasworks. By the 1890s, when run by Samuel Lea's nephew Arthur Lea Leigh, the firm had extensive workshops and warehouses around its main premises on the corner of Corn Street and Market Square; it undertook machine- and implement repair and made builders' and constructional ironwork, using recently introduced steam-power for turning and boring. (fn. 82) Other prominent ironmongers, braziers, and tin-plate workers included Henry Long and Sons of High Street, which succeeded an existing firm in 1866, and Thomas Clarke and Sons, who in the 1890s were also timber- and slatemerchants. (fn. 83) An ironmonger in the 1840s was also a gunand locksmith. (fn. 84)

The introduction of steam power from the 1860s encouraged heavier industry, and in 1872 Witney's first engineering firm, that of Daniel Young, was established on Bridge Street. Young supplied and serviced steam engines, condensers, and other heavy industrial equipment, employing 3 men and 3 boys in 1881, and in 1899 he advertised as a mechanical and consulting engineer and agent, boiler-maker, millwright, and brassfounder. (fn. 85) Coal merchants, recorded from the early 19th century, (fn. 86) also benefited from the opening of the railway and from mechanization. A coal business established in the 1820s by the dyers James and William Marriott was continued first by William's widow Blanche and later by their nephew James (d. 1904), who by 1876 had depots at Witney, Eynsham, Bampton, and Hanborough stations and at Newbridge wharf (in Northmoor). He continued as a coal, coke, and salt merchant alongside his farming, dyeing, and (from the 1890s) blanketmaking activities, the firm becoming a private limited company in the early 20th century. (fn. 87)

Small manufacturers in the mid 19th century included two or three umbrella-makers, a parchmentmaker, and nine or ten cabinet-makers and upholsterers, of whom two employed five or more assistants including apprentices. (fn. 88) Coach-builders included Francis Looker and T. W. Cook, respectively established on High Street and Corn Street by the 1850s and 1870s, and surviving as coach- and motor-body building firms in the 1930s. (fn. 89) Two or three twine- and rope-manufacturers were mentioned from the 1840s, among them William Ford's twine and matting business on Corn Street, which continued to the 1920s. (fn. 90) Artificial fertilizer was manufactured at Farm Mill in the 1870s. (fn. 91) A motor garage and cycle works at West End, producing the so-called 'Witney cycle', and Long's cycle and motor stores on High Street, a successor of Pritchett's short-lived bicycle factory at Worsham, both opened in the late 1890s, continuing as motor-repair garages in the 1930s. (fn. 92)

Professions and Services The town's manufacturers and tradesmen, together with significant numbers of gentry, fundholders, and property-owners, (fn. 93) required the services of numerous professionals. In the early 19th century there were usually three or four solicitors, among them Daniel Westell (d. 1846), whose family firm continued until the early 20th century. N. G. Ravenor's firm, which became Ravenor & Cuthbert and later Ravenor, Batt & Lee, continued as Lee, Chadwick & Co. in the late 20th century, having absorbed Westell and Son before 1920. Westell served as steward of Witney manor and as solicitor for the vestry, his successors in the 1880s acting also as coroner, bailiff of the county court, and clerk to the burial board. (fn. 94) Prominent auctioneers included the architect William Wilkinson (1819–1901), son of a Witney builder and carpenter, who until the mid 1850s practised in the town as a surveyor, auctioneer, and builder, and as a timber-, stone-, and lime-merchant. (fn. 95) Later auctioneers were William Seely (d. 1895), also an architect and builder, and John Habgood and Son, who were established on Market Square, next to Tarrants' grocers, by the 1880s, and continued as estate agents in the 1950s. (fn. 96) Successive members of the Batt and Hyde families were surgeons for most of the 19th century, Edward Hyde (d. 1880) marrying into the Early family; (fn. 97) they, too, were prominent in town affairs, the Batts running a private lunatic asylum on High Street from 1823 to 1857. (fn. 98)

A bank founded in the 1790s by the surgeon Edward Batt (d. 1799), with the solicitor Charles Leake, the brewer Charles Sanders, and the mealman James Holton, (fn. 99) was superseded about 1802 by a new partnership between Batt's sons and John Backshell, which issued its own banknotes. (fn. 100) It was bankrupted in 1815, (fn. 101) and soon after a new bank was set up by the farmer, maltster and wool-dealer John Clinch (d. 1827) and his son John Williams Clinch (d. 1871), founder of Clinch's brewery. Mismanagement by the younger Clinch and his sons James and William may have contributed to William's financial difficulties in the 1870s, and in 1877 William sold the bank to Gilletts' of Oxford, which already had an agency at Witney and was particularly attracted by Clinch's authorization to issue banknotes. By the 1880s the volume of business at Gilletts' Witney branch exceeded that at Oxford, reflecting the custom of prominent blanket manufacturers; the London and County Bank, which had opened an agency at Witney by the early 1850s, was unable to compete and closed its Witney branch in 1885, though the Birmingham Banking Company opened a rival Witney branch the same year. Its success, despite fierce competition from Gilletts', presumably reflected the extent of trade in the town, and both banks continued there into the 20th century, Gilletts' being taken over in 1919 by Barclays, and the Birmingham Banking Company becoming the Metropolitan and (later) Midland Bank. (fn. 102)

Also catering for wealthier inhabitants were those engaged in service occupations. In 1851 they included several hairdressers, chimney-sweeps, and carriers, a lamplighter, and the postmaster, besides large numbers of domestic servants and over forty laundresses or washerwomen. (fn. 103)


  • 1. Below (blanket ind. 1800–1900).
  • 2. The next largest were domestic servants (13 per cent) and leather workers (12 per cent including shoemakers and glovers): PRO, HO 107/1731; below.
  • 3. A. M. Taylor, Gilletts, Bankers at Banbury and Oxford (1964), 158–9.
  • 4. Above, intro. (pop.); below (blanket ind. 1800–1900).
  • 5. Bodl. MS Top. Oxon. d 213, f. 65 and v.; Select Cttee on Oxford and Gt. Western Union Railway Bill (Parl. Papers (HL) 1837–8 (227), xx), p. 27; Plummer, Witney Blanket Ind. 108; S. C. Jenkins, The Fairford Branch: the Witney and East Glos. Railway (2nd edn 1985).
  • 6. Bodl. MS Top. Oxon. d 217, f. 104.
  • 7. Quoted in Taylor, Gilletts, 158–9; for claims of poverty or recession, ORO, NM2/B/A2/10; CE Rec. Centre, 64228, 27 Jan. 1883.
  • 8. PRO, HO 107/1731; figs. include Woodgreen and West End (in Hailey) and Newland (in Cogges).
  • 9. Below.
  • 10. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 45–7; for a water-powered gig-mill at Crawley, Blenheim Mun., box 156, lease 5 Feb. 1714/15.
  • 11. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 50–3; ORO, MS Wills Oxon. 248/1/6; below, Hailey, econ. hist. (mills).
  • 12. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 53; ORO, B1/F/L6/1.
  • 13. Below, Crawley, econ. hist. (mill).
  • 14. Smith, 'Reminiscences', p. 30; ORO, Swan X/2.
  • 15. Below.
  • 16. Report Assistant Hand-Loom Weavers Commissioners (Parl. Papers 1840 (639), xxiv), p. 549; Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 48; Young, Oxon. Agric. 325.
  • 17. Rep. Assistant Hand-Loom Weavers Commissioners, pp. 547–9; cf. Plummer, Witney Blanket Ind. 107, quoting Retns. of Mills and Factories (Parl. Papers 1839 (41), xlii), pp. 127–8.
  • 18. Reps. of Inspectors of Factories (Parl. Papers 1842 (32), xxii), p. 9; Plummer, Witney Blanket Ind. 107.
  • 19. Pigot's Lond. & Prov. Dir. (1823–4); cf. W. Cobbett, Rural Rides, ed. P. Cobbett (1885 edn), ii. 177–8.
  • 20. Rep. Assistant Hand-Loom Weavers Commissioners, p. 546; cf. PO Dir. Oxon. (1842); Giles, Hist. Witney, 54; Smith, 'Reminiscences', p. 9.
  • 21. PRO, HO 107/1731, s.v. Witney, Newland (in Cogges), and Woodgreen (in Hailey).
  • 22. ORO, Swan VII/1–2; VIII/1–3; IX/1–24; Oxf. Jnl. 3 Aug. 1833, p. 2; the Colliers nevertheless continued in business.
  • 23. Oxf. Chron. 17 Apr. 1847.
  • 24. Young, Oxon. Agric. 326; Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 71.
  • 25. Plummer, Witney Blanket Ind. 111, graph after p. 52.
  • 26. Rep. Assistant Hand-Loom Weavers Commissioners, pp. 546–7; Plummer, Witney Blanket Ind. 110–12, 131; ORO, B1/BC/A/6–7.
  • 27. Young, Oxon. Agric. 325–7.
  • 28. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 63.
  • 29. Smith, 'Reminiscences', p. 10; Rep. Assistant Hand-Loom Weavers Commissioners, p. 547.
  • 30. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 61–7; Smith, 'Reminiscences', p. 9; cf. ORO, B1/F/L1/1 [sales ledger 1815–20].
  • 31. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 67–71; Smith, 'Reminiscences', pp. 34–5. For less typical rivalry between the Earlys in the 1850s, Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 96.
  • 32. Brewer, Oxon. 486.
  • 33. Rep. Assistant Hand-Loom Weavers Commissioners, pp. 546–50; for John Early's (d. 1862) accounts 1830–51, ORO, B1/F/L6/2.
  • 34. Young, Oxon. Agric. 325–6.
  • 35. W. Cobbett, Rural Rides, ed. P. Cobbett (1885 edn), ii. 177–8.
  • 36. Rep. Assistant Hand-Loom Weavers Commissioners, pp. 546–50; above, intro. (social life: 1800–1900).
  • 37. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 73–4; Plummer, Witney Blanket Ind. 102–6.
  • 38. CE Rec. Centre, 20325, valuation of Witney manor 7 Dec. 1858; above, intro. (pop.).
  • 39. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 96–104, 114, 157, fam. tree after p. 21; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); above, intro. (bldgs); below (ancient mills). For Hen. Early's business, cf. ORO, Misc. Smith III/2–3; Edw. Early & Co., run as a subsidiary, was formally absorbed in 1921: ORO, B1/D/186.
  • 40. Smith, 'Reminiscences', passim; cf. Witney Express, 10 July 1879; PO Dir. Oxon. (1854 and later edns); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); above, intro. (bldgs).
  • 41. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 150–3; Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); above, intro. (bldgs).
  • 42. Bennett's Business Dir. Oxon. (1898), 58; Witney Official Guide (1936 edn), 35–6: copy in Bodl. GA Oxon. 8° 1139; S. C. Jenkins, 'Industrial Archaeol. of Witney', Rec. Witney, 3 (Apr. 1978), p. 20, giving date as 1898.
  • 43. Smith, 'Reminiscences', 31; above, intro. (bldgs of blanket ind.).
  • 44. Bodl. MS Top. Oxon. d 213, f. 148v.
  • 45. ORO, B1/Y1/1; Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 97 n.
  • 46. Above, intro. (bldgs of blanket ind.); A Visit to Witney Mills (1898): copy in Bodl. GA Oxon. 8° 701; British Industries Business Review (1895), 29.
  • 47. Smith, 'Reminiscences', pp. 33–4; British Industries Business Review (1895), p. 31; Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 153; above, intro. (bldgs).
  • 48. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 102, 105–6; above, intro. (bldgs).
  • 49. Rep. Assistant Hand-Loom Weavers Commissioners, pp. 546–7; Smith, 'Reminiscences', 10, 14, 25, 34; British Industries Business Review (1895), 29, 31; Visit to Witney and Witney Mills (1898).
  • 50. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 65–8; ORO, B1/F/o/1, folder 4; B1/F/L1/1; B1/F/L1/4.
  • 51. British Industries Business Review (1895), 29, 31.
  • 52. Rep. Assistant Hand-Loom Weavers Commissioners, p. 546; Smith, 'Reminiscences', 6, 10, implying that foreign wool supplies were introduced around the 1830s.
  • 53. Visit to Witney Mills (1898).
  • 54. PRO, HO 107/1731 (census 1851); cf. Pigot's Nat. & Comm. Dir. (1842); PO Dir. Oxon. (1847 and later edns); below. Figs. include Woodgreen and West End (in Hailey) and Newland (in Cogges).
  • 55. British Industries Business Review (1895), 29–32; cf. PRO, HO 107/1731; PO Dir. Oxon. (1847 and later edns); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); C. and J. Gott, Bk. of Witney (1986 edn), 103.
  • 56. ORO, Swan IX/3; Pigot's Lond. & Comm. Dir. (1823–4); PO Dir. Oxon. (1864).
  • 57. Brit. Industries Business Review (1895), 31; Pigot's Lond. & Prov. Dir. (1823–4); Oxon. Clockmakers (Banbury Hist. Soc. 4), 156.
  • 58. e.g. Pigot's Nat. & Comm. Dir. (1842); PRO, HO 107/1731.
  • 59. Pigot's Lond. & Prov. Dir. (1823–4); Pigot's Nat. & Comm. Dir. (1842); Lascelles' Dir. Oxon. (1853); PRO, HO 107/1731.
  • 60. M. Bee, 'Clinch and Company, Brewers', Oxon. Local Hist. vol. 2, no. 3 (1985), 76–85. John's brother James bought the Fleece Inn and a brewhouse in 1811.
  • 61. Pevsner, Oxon. 848; ORO, tithe award and map.
  • 62. Bee, 'Clinch and Co.', 76–85; for its takeover in 1963, below (econ. devpt since 1945).
  • 63. Smith, 'Reminiscences', 25–7, 31; Gardner's Dir. Oxon. (1852); PRO, HO 107/1731; above (blanket ind. 1800–1900).
  • 64. PO Dir. Oxon. (1854 and later edns); Bee, 'Clinch and Co.', 78. For deeds, ORO, P/21/1/D/20–26.
  • 65. D. S. Honey, Historic Witney Inns (1995), 31–2: copy in COS; cf. PO Dir. Oxon. (1854 and later edns), mentioning it only from 1869; Sale Cat. (1875): copy in COS.
  • 66. PRO, HO 107/1731; cf. Lascelles' Dir. Oxon. (1853).
  • 67. E. B. Taylor, 'Bartlett Bros Ltd' [c. 1962]: photocopy in COS, DC 16 (1); above, intro. (bldgs).
  • 68. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 97, 102; Bennett's Business Dir. (1898), 55; above, intro. (bldgs).
  • 69. ORO, tithe award, nos. 157, 239; Blenheim Mun., shelf C1, list of quitrents c. 1857, no. 74.
  • 70. ORO, PLU 6/G/1A1/1, p. 58; OS Map 1:2500, Oxon. XXXI.8 (1921 edn).
  • 71. Taylor, 'Bartlett Bros Ltd' [c. 1962]: photocopy in COS; Blenheim Mun., shelf A6, box 2, surrender 2 Nov. 1922.
  • 72. S. C. Jenkins, The Fairford Branch: the Witney and East Glos. Railway (2nd edn 1985), 19, 49.
  • 73. PRO, HO 107/1731; Pigot's Lond. & Comm. Dir. (1823–4); Pigot's Nat. Comm. Dir. (1842); Lascelles' Dir. Oxon. (1853).
  • 74. A Visit to Witney Mills (1898): copy in Bodl.; above (organization of cloth and blanket ind.).
  • 75. Pigot's Lond. & Prov. Dir. (1823–4); PRO, HO 107/1731; ORO, Misc. Go. II/3/i—xxii; ibid. MS Wills Oxon. 239/2/14.
  • 76. D. A. E. Cross, 'Industries of Witney', Jnl. Industrial Archaeol. i (1964), 130; Pigot's Lond. & Prov. Dir. (1823–4); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); PRO, HO 107/1731, Hailey census, s.v. Woodgreen.
  • 77. Oxf. Jnl. 20 July 1833; no glove manufacturers at Church Green were noted in Pigot's Dir. (1830 and 1842).
  • 78. PRO, HO 107/1731, incl. Newland (in Cogges) and Woodgreen and West End (in Hailey); Pigot's Lond. & Prov. Dir. (1830); Lascelles' Dir. Oxon. (1853).
  • 79. PRO, HO 107/1731, s.v. Newland (in Cogges); Pigot's Lond. & Comm. Dir. (1830). For Woodstock's gloving industry, VCH Oxon. xii. 366–7.
  • 80. Brit. Ind. Business Review (1895), 31; A. M. Taylor, Gilletts, Bankers at Banbury and Oxf. (1964), 158; VCH Oxon. ii. 258; xii. 366–7.
  • 81. Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 157–160.
  • 82. Pigot's Nat. & Comm. Dir. (1842); Lascelles' Dir. Oxon. (1853); Brit. Industries Business Review (1895), 31; ORO, tithe award and map, nos. 424, 890; ibid. MS dd Par. Witney c 30, ff. 132, 134; below, local govt. (public services).
  • 83. PO Dir. Oxon. (1847 and later edns); Lascelles' Dir. Oxon. (1853); Brit. Industries Business Review (1895), 30–1. For Clarke, J. W. Dossett-Davies, 'A Witney Inventor and Craftsman', Rec. Witney, vol. 2, no. 1 [c. 1989], 11–16.
  • 84. Pigot's Nat. & Comm. Dir. (1842).
  • 85. Harrod's Dir. Oxon. (1876); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); PRO, RG 11/1516; for company records, ORO, B2.
  • 86. e.g. Pigot's Lond. & Prov. Dir. (1823–4), s.v. maltsters; for coal transport by canal, above, intro. (communications).
  • 87. Pigot's Lond. & Prov. Dir. (1830); Harrod's Dir. Oxon. (1876); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 150–3, fam. tree oppos. p. 148. For records 1858–1969, ORO, B8.
  • 88. Lascelles' Dir. Oxon. (1853); PRO, HO 107/1731 (census 1851).
  • 89. PO Dir. Oxon. (1854 and later edns); Harrod's Dir. Oxon. (1876); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns).
  • 90. Pigot's Nat. & Prov. Dir. (1842); Lascelles' Dir. Oxon. (1853); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); Cross, 'Ind. of Witney', 130; PRO, HO 107/1731.
  • 91. Below (ancient mills).
  • 92. Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1899 and later edns), s.v. Long, Warner; Knight's Dir. Witney (1915); Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 158.
  • 93. Clergy and those of independent means numbered nearly 50 in 1851: PRO, HO 107/1731.
  • 94. Pigot's Nat. & Comm. Dir. (1842); PO Dir. Oxon. (1854 and later edns); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); ORO, MS dd Par. Witney b 14, ff. 16, 25, 30 and v.; Blenheim Mun., shelf C1, box of 18th- and 19th-cent. pps., list of lords and stewards.
  • 95. A. Saint, 'Three Oxf. Architects', Oxoniensia, 35 (1970), 55–7.
  • 96. Dutton, Allen & Co. Dir. Oxon. (1863); PO Dir. Oxon. (1864 and later edns); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); Oxon. Dir. (1958–9); Bodl. GA Oxon. b 6 (31), lot 2.
  • 97. Pigot's Lond. & Comm. Dir. (1823–4); Pigot's Nat. and Comm. Dir. (1842); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns); Plummer and Early, Blanket Makers, 87, fam. tree oppos. p. 20; memorials in St Mary's and Holy Trinity churches.
  • 98. W. L. Parry-Jones, Trade in Lunacy (1972), 128–63; ORO, MS dd Par. Witney b 14, ff. 28v., 30–32, and passim.
  • 99. Univ. Brit. Dir. [c. 1790], iv. 807–9; above (other trades 1500–1800).
  • 100. Plummer, Witney Blanket Ind. 96 (giving 1802); cf. ORO, Batt IV/14 (implying 1807).
  • 101. ORO, Swan IX/3; ibid. Batt IV. 14.
  • 102. M. Bee, 'Clinch and Company, Brewers', Oxon. Local Hist. vol. 2, no. 3 (1985), 76–7; A. M. Taylor, Gilletts, Bankers at Banbury and Oxf. (1964), 132, 154–61, 188, 215–18; Pigot's Lond. & Prov. Dir. (1823–4); PO Dir. Oxon. (1854 and later edns); Kelly's Dir. Oxon. (1883 and later edns).
  • 103. PRO, HO 107/1731.