Collection

Witney blanket

Collection:

Category: Furniture

Manufacturer: Witney

Manufacturers Location: Oxfordshire, England (U.K)

Material: Wool

Abstract:

Red woollen military blanket with green blanket stitching either end (known as whipping).

Adaptions/renovations:

The letter 'C' has been adapted to a 'G', otherwise excellent condition

Why it's in the Collection:

This military blanket is an example of a rural, Cotswolds crafts industry gone global. 

The blanket is relevant to the Lawson Park collection for a number of reasons. The Cotswolds became an important centre for the Arts and Crafts Movement in the early 20th century. Craftsmen and women such as, C.R Ashbee and Gordon Russell followed in William Morris' footsteps, whose country home was at Kelmscott Manor, and settled in villages throughout the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire.

The blanket makers motto since 1778 was, 'weave truth with trust', an ideology that certainly holds sway with Arts and Crafts ideals intrinsically linked to the Lawson Park Collection. The blanket makers also had a strong affinity to nature, and held a superstitious belief that the quality of the blankets lay in the "peculiar abstersive qualities" of the river Windrush's affect on the wool (being rich in nitrous) .

The strong red colour and acronym R.N.C points towards an institutional military usage, possibly within the Royal Naval College. Mysteriously, the 'C' appears to have been adapted with a felt tip pen to read a 'G', turning the acronym to R.G.N - a little more ambiguous to crack.

About the Manufacturer:

By the 1670s the Oxfordshire town of Witney was supplying blankets, made from locally produced Cotswold wool, to the Hudson's Bay Company in North America. Highly prized in the cold climate for their excellent insulating and water repellant qualities, they were exchanged for the beaver pelts much sought after in Europe. By the end of Queen Victoria's reign Early's of Witney were receiving orders from across the globe including Spain, Portugal, the United States, Bermuda, Australia, Newfoundland, South Africa and South America. Wellington's armies were supplied with Witney blankets and this military supply tradition continued with 85% of the 718,000 blankets made in 1944 being for military use. Production of the famous brand was eventually extended world wide with Witney blankets being made under license in Canada, the Czech Republic, India, New Zealand and the United States. The last Witney blanket mill ceased production in 2002.

Bibliography & Further information

Honesty and the crafts. A plea for a broader outlook, S.G Russell, The Arden Press, W.H Smith & Son

Witney Blanket Story