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Mill Memories – A People’s History

Life and Times of the Witney Blanket Workers

witneyblanketmemoriesI wonder if anyone else has experienced a moment of inspiration, thinking that’s a good idea, jumping in with two feet and then gradually realising they hadn’t a clue what they were getting into.  Well, that’s what happened when I decided to write this book.

December 2015 was the 40th Anniversary of the closure of Smith’s Blankets, which was the beginning of the end of blanket making in Witney.  It was also when I lost my job there, something I felt quite sorry about, but I remembered what a friendly, happy and supportive place it was to work.  A nice place with nice people to share the working day. I decided to collect the workers memories before their stories were lost forever.

I asked for stories on the Witney Memories Facebook page, to see if anyone else would be interested in writing their memories down.  If I got enough, I planned to collate them into a little pamphlet to put out to local history groups and museums. I was so surprised by the response and when the stories started arriving I knew that I would have to ‘up my game’ and produce the very best book I could in order to do justice to the heartfelt tales I was getting, and the time and care people were taking to record their memories.

Feedback from publishers showed that the book was a good idea but they felt it would only sell locally.  Whatever would I do next? Two friends who write local history books suggested self-publishing which frankly kept me awake at night just thinking about it.   They both said speak to Parchment Prints of Oxford and they were so helpful, quoted, and then guided this beginner through every step of the way. The printing costs surprised me, but then I had some unexpected financial backing towards the printing costs from Early’s Archive Trust and the Brian Crawford Trust, and that made the book do-able.

I am so pleased with the way the book has turned out, but now need to turn my hand to selling it, perhaps the hardest part of all.  In so many ways this has been a learning curve for me, but I’m so glad I didn’t stop to think of the pitfalls, or this record of memories, from shop floor to management, would never have been written.

The book is priced at £9.99.  It is available at St Michael’s Store in Shipton, or direct from myself on: (Home) 01993 830234 or (Mobile) 07979 375 888.

Angela Proffitt

PS Have just heard that Witney Museum want to officially launch the book.   More to follow……

August-September 2019