Witney: A Quiet Town in Unquiet Times

By Doering, Jonathan W. | Contemporary Review, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Witney: A Quiet Town in Unquiet Times


Doering, Jonathan W., Contemporary Review


Witney, a modest country town twelve miles to the west of Oxford, has stood in one form or another for centuries. Its small size, and the modern, blank-faced housing estates which are springing up in a ring around the original town (in keeping with many areas of Britain, Witney has been instructed to provide thousands of new homes over the next few years), seemingly declaring it to be merely a conurbation serving Oxford and Banbury, are belied by the town's history. The persistence and prudence of the people of Witney have allowed them to survive and thrive, as demonstrated during many turbulent periods, and are being shown again in the present Foot and Mouth Crisis.

Driving in from Oxford on the A40, visitors catch their first sight of the town from the brow of Oxford Hill: a neat quilt of older, cinnamon buildings clustered with modern redbrick developments. This is the town centre, the spine of which is High Street, offering the usual array of newsagents, electricians, banks, shoe shops, and tea rooms, with original dwelling places radiating out from it. Continue down Oxford Hill and swing onto High Street, and you will pass on your left 'Witan Way', named for the Witangemot, or council meetings, held by Anglo-Saxon settlers (evidence of whom can be found on Corn Street which stretches away from the other end of High Street). In 969 King Edgar signed over a tract of land called 'Wyttanige' to one of his thegns; maps of the time show a piece of land which was effectively an island in the Old Channel of the River Windrush, connected to the mainland by a causeway on its north-easterly side. The notion of a community, which is self-contained yet anchored to the outside wo rld, seems highly apposite. Throughout history, Witney appears to have been close to the centre of many events, whilst not always at the centre of them.

Continue down High Street, past a well-frequented Somerfield's supermarket on the right and an outlet of Boots the Chemists on the left. Further on, you pass a chic Ask restaurant and a pub on your right: opposite them stand the Corn Exchange, a civic meeting place now used for special events (Terry Waite, the former hostage, gave a speech and signed books there last Christmas), and the town's cinema. Corn Street is on your right. Ahead of you lies Church Green, a picturesque common where John Wesley delivered sermons (commemorated by 'Wesley Walk' shopping lane off High Street). There is a sober and well-tended war memorial in front, lined on both sides by grey stone houses, some now turned into businesses (a hairdresser's wares can be seen through the bay window of one, the town's career service is accommodated in another). Witney's first church, St. Mary's-on-the-Green, stands at the far end. It was built in the thirteenth century by Bishop Peter des Roches as part of a general updating of the town, which also included the laying of a new market place. A sharp eye might make out a carved monkey that escaped and scampered up the side of the tower. Beside St. Mary's there is a short row of small, dainty cottages, administered by the Church, for the use of its employees and other deserving families.

From the churchyard, you can make out a white canopy behind a screen of trees in the grounds of a grand house to one side of the Green. The house is now a community care centre; beside it are the excavated remains of a bishop's palace. Witney's geographically central position led to its growing importance in national affairs from the mid-1000s onwards. Stigand, Bishop of Winchester, began the construction of the Palace, which was modified and developed by his successors. From 1129-71 the see of Winchester was held by Henry of Blois, King Stephen's brother. The period 1135-50 witnessed a civil war between Stephen and Queen Matilda, who laid claim to the throne. Henry initially supported his brother, hoping his loyalty would be rewarded with the addition of the see of Canterbury to that of Winchester (as had been done for Stigand). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Witney: A Quiet Town in Unquiet Times
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.