COTSWOLD Woollen Weavers at Filkins has a dual personality – it has a Gloucestershire postcode but it is actually in Oxfordshire.

The man behind the company, Richard Martin, had already designed and woven a Gloucestershire check, available as a throw and furnishing fabric, so he decided it was time to even up the score and has just introduced an Oxfordshire check, which has been made into a beautiful fringed throw that will bring a local heritage touch to any home.

Richard has encapsulated Oxfordshire in his design and colourway.

The lambswool merino check depicts the blue stripe of the River Thames flowing through the fresh green of the rolling West Oxfordshire countryside, and then through Oxford, with the dark blue of the university and the grey of the city streets, courtyards, alleyways and the motor industry.

At Cotswold Woollen Weavers, which is housed in a charming cluster of old barns and farm outbuildings in Filkins, you will find 1,500 lambswool throws to choose from, all based on age-old weaving skills that the company champions and proudly upholds.

And it is a pleasure to find that fashion and style holds sway here too.

The sizeable shop has a massive range of clothes – from very traditional countrywear such as shooting jackets and gilets to much more contemporary styles – even gorgeous little tweed mini-skirts.

The scarves, in a rainbow of colours, are lovely, as are the leather-trimmed handbags, knits and quirky little items such as neck ruffs – which are popular with classic car enthusiasts, so partner Trish Poole told me.

She runs the business with Richard and his ex-wife Jane Martin.

“People want tradition and quality,” said Trish.

“And that’s the thing about wool – it’s a beautiful product, enduring and lovely, practical, hardwearing and natural.”

Cotswold Woollen Weavers is much more than a shop though — it is a visitor destination that covers a number of bases.

Last year, It was named Best Rural Business in the West Oxfordshire Business Awards.

As well as being “the only textile design studios in the Cotswolds for such a range of fabulous cloth inspired by our wool heritage”, there are relics of the Cotswolds’ traditional wool and weaving industry, with two old looms that Richard still uses, a stonemason’s studio, furniture and home accessories, pottery, art and sculpture, both vintage and new. It is described as an ‘explorium’.

After an enjoyable browse, and perhaps having splashed out on some chic new clothes, you can enjoy a coffee, light lunch or afternoon tea in the coffee shop.

Cotswold Woollen Weavers was set up 30 years ago by Richard, whose first foray into the woollen industry was in Wales.

He bought a mill that had been derelict for 20 years, and was able to indulge his twin loves – engineering and history.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he said.

“I was going to turn it into a museum, but then someone said ‘why not use the machines?’ which had not been operated for years. There was still wool lying around, so I taught myself how to do it.

“Learning by trial and error is a very good way to get the hang of things.”

He bought the old farmyard and its buildings at Filkins six years later, having decided that he wanted to be at the centre of wool heritage in the Cotswolds, and also because it was easy for clients to access from London.

But a couple of years ago, health and safety deemed the mix of weaving looms and visitors unacceptable, so all production now takes place at a mill just outside Huddersfield, in West Yorkshire, another traditional redoubt of the woollen trade, while design and some finishing work remains at Filkins.

Witney Gazette: Richard and Jane Martin with swatches of cloth in 2003

Trish, who has been with the company for four years, handles the retail side, and she and Richard collaborate on putting together their stylish ‘mix and match’ fashion range, while Jane oversees the making-up of the garments.

“Everything is based on the Cotswolds’ wool heritage,” added Trish. “We have a big country and city following, with visitors coming from all over the world.

“They love the quality and the history and cherish what the Cotswolds is all about – sheep, wool and stone. That’s what the prosperity of the area was built on.”

There is a holiday cottage and even two friendly Cotswold sheep in a paddock, plus you can hire bicycles to get out and explore the countryside which, said Richard: “Is ideal because it is pretty flat, but interesting and picturesque, dotted with little villages, all slightly different.”

Trish said: “We work closely with the tourism staff at West Oxfordshire District Council, and we have a big following.

“We find word of mouth is the best way to get known – people get quite excited when they have found us and go off and tell their friends. It’s a very simple way of marketing but very effective.”

And you never know what you will come across at Cotswold Woollen Weavers.

Last year, Richard snapped up the entire stock of the UK’s last horn button maker, James Groves & Sons of Halesowen, in the West Midlands, when it closed down.

He acquired one tonne of buttons made from real antler and buffalo horn and hoof from the company, which starting out in 1855 making uniform buttons for both sides in the American Civil War.

So if you would like some horn buttons, there are plenty left...

  • Cotswold Woollen Weavers can be found in the centre of Filkins, off the A361 between Burford and Lechlade. For more information, call 01367 860660 or see