Axminster is a market town and civil parish on the eastern border of the county of Devon in England, some 28 miles (45 km) from the county town of Exeter. The town is built on a hill overlooking the River Axe which heads towards the English Channel at Axmouth, and is in the East Devon local government district. At the 2001 census, it had a population of 5,626, increasing to 5,761 by the 2011 census. The market is still held every Thursday.
Axminster was part of a Rural District of the same name from the creation of rural districts in 1894 until 1915 when the town became an Urban District. However in Axminster's case the districts were established in 1915. In 1953 Axminster gave up its urban district status and became part of Axminster Rural District again. In 1974, in the nationwide reorganization of municipalities, Axminster became part of the larger East Devon District.
During the period 1915-1953 the more rural parts of the original parish were renamed Axminster Hamlets and remained within the Rural District.
Axminster and carpets
Axminster gave its name to a type of carpet. An Axminster-type power loom is capable of weaving high quality carpets with many varying colours and patterns. While Axminster carpet is made in the town by Axminster Carpets Ltd; this type of carpet is now manufactured all over the world.
The history of the town is very much linked to the carpet industry, started by Thomas Whitty at Court House near the church in 1755. The completion of the early hand tufted carpets was marked by a peal of bells from the parish church as it took a great amount of time and labour to complete them.
Axminster lies on two major Roman roads: the Fosse Way from Lincoln to Seaton, and the Dorchester to Exeter road. There was a Roman fort on the crossroads at Woodbury Farm, just south of the present town.
Axminster was recorded in the late 9th century as Ascanmynster and in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Aixeministra. The name means "monastery or large church by the River Axe" and is a mixture of languages; the river name Axe has Celtic origins and mynster is an Old English word.
In 1210, a charter was granted to the town that included the right to hold a weekly cattle market which took place in the market square until it was moved to Trinity Square in 1834. It then moved in October 1912 to a site off South Street where it was held for 94 years.
The town was on the coaching route from London to Exeter. In 1760 a coaching inn named The George Hotel was opened on the corner of Lyme Street and Chard Street on the site of an old inn called the Cross Keys that was destroyed by fire in 1759. Over 16 coaches a day would stop at the hotel in its heyday for refreshments and to change horses, the building still stands but it is currently unoccupied. Axminster was also on the route of The Trafalgar Way which is the name given to the historic route used to carry dispatches with the news of the Battle of Trafalgar overland from Falmouth in Cornwall to the Admiralty in London in 1805.
Axminster is the southern starting point of the Taunton Stop Line, a World War II defensive line consisting of pillboxes and anti-tank obstacles, which runs north to the Somerset coast near Highbridge.