more than just carpets

River Axe near Axminster

The market town of Axminster sits on a rise in the Axe valley next to the rivers Yarty and Axe. The town is mentioned in the Domesday Book, where it is called Axeminstre. It is situated on a crossing of two Roman roads.

It’s famous for its carpets, which have been manufactured in the town since 1755 when Thomas Whitty moved there from Wells. The business prospered at first but demand fell with the arrival of Huguenot weavers with new textures and pattern designs.

Whitty designed a new loom to weave knotted carpets. He made a lot of money selling carpets to the wealthy planters in Massachusetts and Virginia.

It wasn't long before he opened a warehouse and showroom and it was only a matter of time before he benefited from Royal patronage. All the great carpets for the Brighton pavilion were from Whitty's factory in Axminster.

The carpets are based on natural designs inspired but the beautiful countryside that surrounds the town. After Thomas Whitty's death and following a major fire in the factory the industry dwindled until 1936 when the factory was re-opened. The modern carpets are completely machine made but there is still a factory showroom on the road to Musbury.

There’s a market held in the town square every week on a Thursday.

The town takes its name from the church in the centre of the town is a Minster church because it was originally associated with the Cistercian monastery near by at Newnham. Tradition has it that King Athelstan gave the original church to seven priests with instructions for them to pray for people killed in battles with the Danes. Later on King John gave the manor of Axminster to the Cistercians and it reverted to the crown when the monasteries were dissolved in the time of Henry VIII.

Situated slightly inland the town is not as large as Honiton but has plenty of character. It has a population of less than 6,000. As such it’s small enough to be friendly and for the residents to recognise and welcome visitors.

The friendly atmosphere of East Devon is found in the small shopping centre where the shops reflect the local industries of carpet making and farming. Axminster Power Tools have a large and thriving business supplying tools and machinery to the local workforce.

There is an annual Garden Festival held in June each year and an illuminated carnival in the autumn.

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