Axminster (St. Mary)
AXMINSTER (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, partly in the county of Dorset, but chiefly in the hundred of Axminster, Honiton and S. divisions of Devon, 25 miles (E. by N.) from Exeter, and 147 (W. S. W.) from London, on the road to Exeter; comprising the tythings of Abbey, Beerhall, Shapwick, Smallridge, Town, Trill, Uphay, Westwater, Weycroft, and Wyke; and containing 2860 inhabitants, of whom 2139 are in the town. This place, the name of which is derived from its situation near the river Axe, and from a minster founded here by King Athelstan, was, in the time of the Saxons, a town of considerable importance, and the burial-place of many of their princes. In 1644, a conflict took place in the vicinity between the royalists and the parliamentarians, in which Sir Richard Cholmondeley, who commanded the former, was slain. The town, which is irregularly built, is pleasantly situated on the declivity of a hill, near the confluence of the rivers Axe and Yarty, over the first of which three bridges have been erected; it is paved, partially lighted, and amply supplied with water from several good springs. Races are held in August at Shute hill, three miles distant; and there are assemblies occasionally at the George hotel. The manufacture of carpets, which had been established for nearly a century, has been recently transferred to Wilton, and the only manufacture now carried on is that of tape. The parish produces stone of good quality for building, and for burning into lime. The market is on Saturday; and fairs are held on the first Tuesday after April 25th, the first Wednesday after June 24th, and the first Wednesday after Oct. 10th. Courts leet and baron are held annually by the lord of the manor, at the former of which constables and other officers are appointed. The powers of the county debt-court of Axminster, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Axminster, and two adjacent parishes.
The living is a vicarage, with the livings of Kilmington and Membury annexed, valued in the king's books at £44. 6. 8.; net income, £975; patron, the Bishop of Exeter. The tithes have been commuted for £670 payable to the impropriators, and £608 payable to the vicar. The church is an ancient structure, of various styles; the entrance is under a fine Norman arch richly moulded; the interior is of the early English style, with later insertions: the pulpit and reading-desk are curiously carved. There are places of worship for Independents, Wesleyans, and Roman Catholics. The poor law union of Axminster comprises 11 parishes and places in the county of Devon, and 6 in that of Dorset; and contains a population of 20,585. About a mile south of the town, on the bank of the river Axe, are the remains of Newenham Abbey, consisting of the chapel, kitchen, and other parts; and at the distance of three miles, is an intrenchment called Musbury Castle.