Welcome to Axminster

Gateway to the Jurassic Coast

Historic Axminster

With its origins dating back to Celtic times of 300 BC, Axminster lies on two major Roman roads: the Fosse Way from Lincoln to Seaton, and the Dorchester to Exeter road but the Saxons settled here in the 7th century and great examples of ancient architecture are dotted in around the town.

Axminster was recorded in the late 9th century as "Ascanmynster" and then 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.

Whilst famously lending its name to a particular weave of carpet, 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 Carpets are still the town's most famous export in modern times

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 untill 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. It finally closed in 2006 in the aftermath of the 2001 United Kingdom foot-and-mouth outbreak. A building on the site then continued to be used for a general auction until all the buildings were demolished and replaced by a housing development.

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; in it's hey day over 16 coaches a day would stop at the hotel for refreshments and to change horses.

The Trafalgar Way is the name given to the historic route used to carry dispatches with the news of The Battle of Trafalgar. In 1805 they travelled overland from Falmouth in Cornwall, to the Admiralty in London and Axminster was on route; there is a plaque commemorating this fact in the town centre.

Axminster railway station was opened on 19 July 1860, with the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) offering direct services between Queen Street Station in Exeter and Yeovil. The station building was designed by the LSWR's architect Sir William Tite in mock gothic style. In 1903, the branch line from Axminster to Lyme Regis was opened; this closed in the 1960s with the Beeching cuts.  Axminster now has excellent rail links to London and Exeter

Axminster is the southern starting point of the Taunton Stop Line, a World War II defensive line consisting of pillboxes and anti-tank obstacles, designed "to stop an enemy's advance from the west" The Taunton Stop Line ran north-south for nearly 50 miles (80 km) through Somerset, Dorset and Devon, roughly from Axminster to Chard along the River Axe, then along the Great Western Railway to Ilminster, the railway and Chard Canal to Taunton, the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal to Bridgwater, and the River Parrett to the coast near Highbridge

Historic Places to Visit in Axminster

Archway Bookshop

Archway Bookshop AxminsterArchway Bookshop

Named because of the 'Arch' doorway.
It is thought that the arch was a window from Newenham Abbey in 1861, the abbey itself was founded in 1246, built by the Axe to the south of the town. This abbey was destroyed shortly after surrendering to Henry VIII in 1539.

Castle Steps

Castle Steps AxminsterCastle Steps

A narrow archway, known as Symes Lane, leads down to Castle Street, passing Lace Cottage with its 10 foot thick foundations.

Opposite the cottage is one of the original Methodist Churches. Turning right in castle Street you'll find the Town Clink which was in use until 1864.

Courtyard Garden at the Old Courthouse

This beautiful public garden, known locally as the 'secret garden' is owned and maintained by the town council and is open to the public throughout the year. This south facing garden is a tranquil haven right in the centre of Axminster and a real sun-trap when the sun shines.

Free 'Arts in the Garden' events take place here throughout the summer months and comprise musical events each Saturday morning from 11.00 and craft events on occasional weekdays

The Guildhall

Axminster Guildhall

Axminster Guildhall

Originally built in 1931 as a Guildhall and was used as such until 1946 when the property was sold and used as a cinema until it closed in 1964.

The building was purchased by a local firm and was almost immediately put up for sale when the Town Council purchased it undertaking to complete the renovation.

The Guildhall today is still the home of the Town Council and with the available large hall, is the mainstay of local entertainment groups and recreational activities.

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Market Square

The square was the site of the original Market from the time of the original charter in 1210. The current building on the site dates from 1880 and has had various functions, theatre, cinema and currently a furniture business.

Minster Church (St Mary the Virgin)

The Minster Church AxminsterThe Minster Church - St Mary the Virgin

There has been a church on the site since the 8th century and in 786 the body of Cynhard the Atheling was brought here for burial, and a tradition survives that King Athelstan founded a college of priests and endowed the church in 937. Of Saxon remains, however, there are no clear traces.

The present church dates from 13th century and there is much of interest to be seen in the church with a Norman door at the rear and a Jacobean pulpit. For more historical information visit Minster Church on the green sited centrally in the town.

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The Old Brush Works

The Old Brush Works Axminster

The Old Brush Works

This large building was built in the 18th century to take advantage of the River Axe.

The building was used for wool storage, a flax workshop and a rope factory before the building was sold to Mr Coates as a brush factory.

It is currently a feather factory and has prepared feathers for the Queen Mother as well as military apparel: Jaffe et fils makers of military plumes

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The Old CourtHouse

The Old Courthouse AxminsterThe Old Courthouse

Originally the site of the Union Workhouse, in 1864 a new building was opened to become the one of the first Police Stations in Devon with the cells being used until 1964.

The building was purchased in 1974 by the Town Council from the Rural District Council (who had taken it over from the Police).

It has gradually progressed through stages to its present full use. The Old Courthouse Complex is currently the home of the Tourist Information Centre, Axminster Museum, the Senior Citizens Centre and the Arts Cafe.


Original Carpet Factory

Original Axminster Carpet Factory

The Original Axminster Carpet Factory - Thomas Whitty House

Thomas Whitty produced his first carpet on this site in 1755 and quickly gained a reputation for quality, making carpets for some of the countries finest houses.

King George III visited Axminster in 1789 after hearing about the carpets.

In 1826 the building burnt down and was rebuilt as we see it today.

The factory went bankrupt shortly after, becoming a Court Room and then the Towns Hospital.

Axminster did not start making carpets again until 1937 on its present site at the bottom of Woodmead Road.

Thomas Whitty House is now being turned into a unique heritage and visitor centre by Axminster Heritage Limited

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Trinity Square

Named in 1834 after a fire on Trinity Sunday, destroying much of the area. A fountain was erected in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria Jubilee. Currently used as the Town's Market area, held every Thursday.


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