Newsletter 2 – Nov 2013

Witney Museum & Historical Society

Our programme for 2013 continues with the following talks, all held in the Wesley Room of the High Street Methodist Church at 7.30 pm:

Tuesday 19th November
“Origins of Cowley Part 2”
by Roseanne Butler

Tuesday 17th December
“Fawler Mines – Why Oxfordshire did not become the
Black Country”
by Alan Cobb


Oxford Bus Museum

It was thought that for those members who were unable to attend a particular talk that a brief report in a subsequent Newsletter might be of interest. The first of these is written by Eleonore Bruyere and covers the talk entitled “Introduction to OxfordshireBusMuseum” by Chris Butterfield.

The OxfordshireBusMuseum is dedicated to telling the story of bus and coach travel around Oxfordshire over the last 100 years and Chris Butterfield has just given us a lively and informative ride!

The Museum’s main problem according to Mr Butterfield is that of image. Buses just do not have the instant appeal that other forms of transportation may have. But once you have bought your ticket and entered the world of bygone buses in Oxfordshire you are hooked and are in for an enjoyable few hours.

A visit to the Museum is great for school children, for your guests in search of something different, or just for having a pleasant afternoon out. The Museum has a series of great events throughout the year. Since 2004 the Oxfordshire Bus Museum, whose home is at the Station Yard in Long Hanborough , has also become the home of the Morris Motors Exhibition.

For more information go to:
Or phone: 01993 883 617.
Eleonore Bruyere


Exciting new Projects

Jane Markham from Podcats got in touch with us through our website to invite us to participate in radio features commissioned by the BBC as part of their commemoration of the centenary of the First World War. Local radio stations will be making from 20 to 25 short pieces on what it was like to live through this era. These features will also form part of the BBC website and will become a valuable archive for future generations. Witney should be one of them!

The Witney Blanket industry supplied blankets to the soldiers during this war and we appeal to our members for information, artefacts, family stories that involve Witney residents at that time. Your participation will be greatly appreciated.

Again through our website we have been informed that ‘Your Family History’ magazine has recently changed its name and has become the all new ‘Discover Your History’. As well as a new name, they have a new editorial team who will help readers to explore a huge variety of historical subjects in a unique and original way.

For more information on this visit their website at:
Eleonore Bruyere



I thought I might re-introduce a quiz into the Newsletter, if enough members would find it interesting.

I’ll start with this rather poor 1905 image of Mary Smith employed in the East End of London with her pea shooter but what was she employed to do?



Email me your answer and also let me know if you would like a quiz of some sort in each Newsletter.






Thames Valley Museums Group

WitneyMuseum and Historical Society represented at the launch of Thames Valley Museums Group initiative with a stand and display as reported below.


Culture Minister Announces Museums Initiative

Visit Thames has joined the Thames Valley Museums Group’s break-through initiative that showcases the rich museum offering within the Thames Valley and hopes to encourage visitors to galleries and museums to explore other heritage institutions in the area.

Announced today by Ed Vaizey, the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, the Thames Valley Museums Group brings together over 60 Museums within the three counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire.

This initiative includes major museums in the region such as The Ashmolean, River & RowingMuseum, Didcot Railway Centre, ChilternOpenAirMuseum, Oxford Castle Unlocked and Kelmscott Manor.

With over 5 million annual visitors to the museums within the three counties, the Thames Valley Museum Group’s cross-promotion aims to increase visitor numbers to each museum.

The ThamesValley boasts a greater concentration of museums than anywhere else in the UK outside the capital, making it an ideal destination for visitors wanting to combine the lush English countryside also well as its rich heritage. We are delighted that the National Trust are joining the project and six of their local properties will be featured on the website.

Ed Vaizey, UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, said “I am delighted to be launching this excellent initiative.  Over 60 museums have come together, using the power of cross marketing and the internet to increase attendance in a manner that benefits not just one but all is fantastic.  Over five million people already visit these museums each year and it is exactly this sort of collaboration that will further increase visitor numbers, encourage greater opportunities for international tourists and showcase the sheer range of subjects these Museums cover.

“Regional museums reflect the very best of the UK’s rich and diverse heritage.  It’s fitting we are launching this scheme here in the River & Rowing Museum, that has recently been recognised by The Times newspaper as one of the top 50 museums in the world and has a great reputation as a catalyst for new ideas.”

Moira Sinclair, Executive Director, London and South East, Arts Council England, said “We are delighted to be able to support the Thames Valley Museums Group as they work collaboratively towards raising the profile of and engagement with museums across the three counties. It is really important to see that digital marketing will play an intrinsic role in this project, expanding the reach of the participating museums; something that is invaluable for the smaller organisations. In the long term, we hope that this will help deliver greater sustainability for all those organisations involved as they start to benefit from greater visitor numbers.”

Paul Mainds, chair of the Thames Valley Museums Group and Chief Executive of the River & RowingMuseum, said “We are delighted to be launching the Thames Valley Museum Group’s new Marketing initiative today and we are grateful to both Ed Vaizey MP and Arts Council England for joining us today and their support. With more than 60 museums in the three counties, Bucks, Berks and Oxon, we must have one of the greatest concentrations of museums anywhere in the world, certainly outside any major city. The challenge for us was to connect both existing visitors and tourists to the opportunities available.

“With smart phones and tablets transforming the way in which people search for information we felt we needed one site to draw everything together. It is truly a portal with a double purpose – visitors benefit from easy access to the websites of all the museums in a specific area, and museums will benefit from increased visitors.

This project is designed to make an interest in one museum lead to the discovery of another.
“We are hugely grateful to the Arts Council England for their support and above all to the individual museums that make up the Thames Valley Museums Group. It is great to have the combined expertise of so many colleagues working together on this project. Such collaborative working is a very positive sign not only for the future of this initiative but also for other TVMG projects in the future. It is bringing their collections to a wider audience that this project is all about.”
Ian Petty


Then and Now

Witney Workhouse was erected in 1835 to a design by George Wilkinson (1813-90) of Witney. It was one of the first “new workhouses” to be built under the provisions of the 1834 Poor Law Act, the paupers themselves being pressed into service as quarry labourers.



The completed workhouse consisted of a central tower with radial wings, containing accommodation for 450 paupers. There was also a gatehouse and porter’s lodge, together with stables and an administrative block, while a chapel was added in 1860.

In 1941, Crawford Colletts Ltd re-located from London to Witney, and transformed the old Workhouse into an engineering factory. Most of the Workhouse was demolished in 1976, although the administrative block and chapel have survived.


The administrative building has acquired a modified roof, as shown in the accompanying picture.




Oxfordshire Museums Council

The AGM of the OMC was held at the River and RowingMuseum on 10th October.  Your chairman represents Witney at the OMC and is also a member of the Executive.

OMC represents Oxfordshire Museums and produces a brochure funded by both membership fees and some very generous advertisers.  The brochure is available at the museum, indeed at all of the museums and also at the history talks.

After the formal procedure of an AGM there was a talk by Stephen Barker, a heritage consultant, on the centenary of the Great War entitled ‘The Trench Watch’ in which he alluded to the functionality of what we call the wrist watch taking over from the fashionality of the pocket watch.  Did it really need a war to do that?  Stephen will be running an exhibition project at the new Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum, now nearing completion; he will also be featuring both Witney and Banbury towns as historic examples and we hope to use his experience and expertise with our own exhibition on local wartime history.

In all OMC co-operation between museums is very helpful and will doubtless link in with Thames Valley to further publicise museums in the area.

If you have not visited the River and RowingMuseum at Henley it is well worth a day trip.  Three elements are key features: rowing, the sport; the river itself, both history and management; and local area history. It is described as world class and one has to agree with that.  There is also a fine shop and restaurant and, of course, the chance to walk along the Thames itself at Henley.
Ian Petty

We are always pleased to receive articles for the newsletter so please keep them coming in, preferably emailed to me as Word documents where possible. Also, if you have ideas about what you would like to see in the newsletter, do let me know and I will attempt to include them.

Items for inclusion in the next Newsletter should reach me by:
Monday 13th January 2014
Editor: Malcolm D Osmundson