Axminster, Dorset

Axminster, a town in Devon, and a parish partly also in Dorset. The town stands on a rising ground, adjacent to the river Axe, above the influx of the Yarty, on the L. & S.W.R., 145 miles from London, and 25 E by N of Exeter. It dates from a period prior to the Roman invasion. It was called by the Anglo-Saxons Brunenburgh, and gave that name to the battlefield of Athelstan's famous victory, in 937, over the Danes, the Scotch, and the Irish, and it took the name of Axminster from a great church or minster for seven priests, said to have been founded at it by Athelstan, in commemoration of his victory. A party of the Royal troops were stationed in it in 1644, and fought an action in its neighbourhood with the Parliamentarians. The Prince of Orange abode some days in it, in 1689, on his way to London. Its streets are irregularly formed, but spacious. Trinity Square was planned and laid out after a fire on Trinity Sunday, 1834, which destroyed the entire range of about thirty houses then standing. The sweeping away of the old street threw open the church and churchyard, which may now be said to be included in the square. The Jubilee Fountain also stands in the square. There is also a market-house, erected in 1826 on the site of an older building, in which a guild-hall formed the upper storey. The parish church is a large edifice of nave, aisles, and chancel, with massive central tower; consists variously of ancient parts and modern renovations, and perhaps includes some portion of Athelstan's minster; possesses a fine Norman doorway, and displays elsewhere the three styles of Pointed architecture-Early English, Decorated, and Perpendicular, and contains two monumental effigies, a number of armorial shields, and a painting of the Twelve Apostles; it was greatly repaired in 1871. The cemetery is about ½ mile distant, on the Chard Road. There are chapels for Congregationalists, Wesleyans, and Roman Catholics. The workhouse was erected in 1836, at a cost of £7000, and afterwards enlarged at a further cost of £2500. A cottage hospital was established in 1887. The town has two banking offices, and three chief inns, Conservative and Liberal Clubs, and is a seat of petty sessions and of county courts. Markets are held on Saturdays, and a great market for the disposal of stock, &c., on every alternate Thursday. Fairs are held on the Tuesday after 25 April, the Tuesday after 24 June, and the Wednesday after 10 October. A manufacture of famous carpets, rivalling those from Turkey, was begun in 1755, but came to an end in 1835. A new trade has sprung up in the manufacture of tooth, nail, and toilet brushes. The environs of the town are pleasant, the views in the vicinity extensive and beautiful, and all the approaches good and wide. A tunnel on the road from Charmouth, opened in 1832, pierces one of the steepest hills between London and Exeter, and is about 70 yards long, and of sufficient capacity to permit two large waggons to pass each other.

The parish includes the tithings of Abbey, Shapwick, Smallridge, Trill, Uphay, West Water, Weycroft, and Wyke or Week, in Devon, and the tithing of Beerhall in Dorset. Acreage, 6867; population of the civil parish, 2809; of the ecclesiastical, 3759. There is a post, money order, and telegraph office. The manor belonged to the Crown till after the Norman conquest ; was given by King John to Lord Brewer; passed to Lord Reginald de Mohun, who gave it to the Abbey of Newenham; went, at the dissolution, to the Duke of Norfolk; and was sold, in the time of James I., to Lord Petre. The living is a vicarage, united with the curacies of Kilmington and Membury, in the diocese of Exeter; net value, £608. Dr. Buckland, the famous geologist, was a native.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5