From White's Devonshire Directory of 1850
AXMINSTER is a small ancient market town, upon a pleasant acclivity on the south-eastern side of the river Axe, near the borders of Dorsetshire, 5 miles N.W. of Lyme Regis, 9 miles E. by S. of Honiton, 25 miles E. by N. of Exeter, and 147 W.S.W. of London. Its parish contains 2860 inhabitants, and 7637A. 2R. 29P. of land, generally fertile,, and divided into ten tithings, of which the following are the names and their population in 1841:- Abbey, 76; Beerhall, 30; Shapwick, 26; Smallridge, 207; Axminster Town, 2139; Trill, 39; Uphay, 57; West-Water, 127; Weycroft, 56; and Wyke, or Week, 103. These tithings extend about three miles along the borders of Dorsetshire, and the banks of the small river Axe, which abounds in salmon and other fish, and falls into the sea about six miles south of the town. Axminster had formerly a share of the clothing trade, and, in 1755, the late Mr. Thomas Whitty established here a manufactory of carpets, which was discontinued in 1835, after having enjoyed for many years a high celebrity for the beauty and elegance of its productions: its founder having received, in 1759, a premium of £30 from the Society of Arts, for having made the largest and handsomest Turkey carpet that had ever been manufactured in this country, being 26½ feet by 17½. Another carpet made here for the Grand Sultan, cost more than £1000. The town is irregularly built, and is now without any manufactures. It has markets for provisions, on Tuesday and Friday, and it has three annual fairs for cattle, &c., on the Tuesday after April 25, on June 26th, and on the Wednesday after October 10th. Petty Sessions are held here and at Colyton alternately once a month, and Chas. Bond, Esq., is clerk to the magistrates. He is also clerk of the COUNTY COURT, held here on the second Monday of every month for the 17 parishes of Axminster Union, and those of Catherston, Leweston, and Wootton-Fitzpaine. King Athelstan gave Axminster church to seven priests, who were to pray for the souls of seven knights and many Saxon soldiers, who wore slain near the town in a great battle with the Danes. In October, 1644, Sir Richard Cholmondely was stationed here with a party of the King' horse, and received his death wound in a battle with the Parliamentarians, fought near the town. The manor of Axminster was part of the royal demesne until King John gave it to Lord Briwer or Brewer. Sir Reginald de Mohun, in 1246, gave it to Newham, or Newenham Abbey, which he and his brother founded in this parish, for monks of the Cistercian order. A farm house, about a mile from the town, occupies part of the site of this once splendid and richly endowed abbey: but all that now remains of the monastic buildings are a few mouldering walls, and the east window of a chapel. At the dissolution, the yearly revenue of the abbey was valued at £227. 7s. 8d., and the site and the manor were granted to the Duke of Norfolk, by whose family they were sold to Lord Petre, in the 17th century. The manor is now in dispute, but the soil belongs to many proprietors, the largest of whom are W. Gregson, H. Bilke, H. Knight, R. Mallock, J. Davidson, and W. Tucker, Esqrs.; Miss Shiles, and the representatives of the late W. Knight, Esq. Hillary House, Hill House, Fursbrook House, Sector House, and Leacombe House, are neat and pleasant mansions, and their occupants are stated in the subjoined directory. Another mansion here, called Clocombe House, is now unoccupied. Smallridge estate was held in the reign of William the Conqueror by Ralph de Pomeroy, and afterwards passed to the Mohun, Raleigh, Mallock, and Campion families, the latter of whom sold it to several tenants. Wycroft, or Weycroft, was long held by the Wigot, Gobodisleigh, and Dennis families. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and others, as trustees of the family of Sir Thomas Brooke, had license in 1426 to castellate Wycroft house, and enclose a park of 800 acres. It was sold, in 1611, to Thomas Bennett, Esq., sheriff of London, who destroyed the park, and suffered the house to fall to ruins, of which there are still a few remains. The estate was afterwards sold to various freeholders. The Church (St. Mary) is a large and venerable structure, displaying several kinds of architecture, with a massive tower rising from the centre. Leland says, this church, once dignified with the name "minister," was famous for the sepultures of many noble Saxons and Danes, slain at Branesdown and Colecroft, Some parts of the edifice have the appearance of great antiquity, particularly a Saxon doorway, that has been removed from the south side to the eastern end of the aisle. The east window is large, and enriched with stained glass. The advowson of the vicarage, the appropriation of the rectory, to which is attached the manor of Prestaller, were given by Edward I. as part of the endowment of the Prebendaries of Warthill and Grindal, in York Cathedral, as they still remain. The vicarage, with the curacies of Kilmington and Membury annexed to it, valued in K.B. at £44. 6s. 8d., and in 1831 at £1042, is in the alternate patronage of the two Prebendaries, and is now held by the Rev. Wm. J. Coneybeare, M.A. The tithes were commuted in 1838, the vicarial for £607. 1s. 3d., and the rectorial for £670. 10s. per annum. The Very Rev. W.D. Coneybeare, Dean of Llandaff, is lessee of the latter. The Vicarage House is a modern building. In the cartulary of Newenham Abbey are transcripts of two charters of King John, confirming the Sunday market, and granting that Axminster should be a free borough, and have a fair for eight days. The Rev. John Prince, author of a biographical work on the Worthies of Devon, was born at the Abbey house. Here is an Independent Chapel, built in 1826, in lieu of the old Presbyterian Meeting house, founded in 1698. Here is also a Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1796, and a Roman Catholic Chapel, erected in 1830.
Axminster Parish Lands, &c., which are vested in trust for the use of the poor, by deeds dated the 19th of James I. and Feb. l0th, 1679, comprise 18A. 2R., let for £29 per annum, and three tenements, and a house, garden, and orchard, occupied by paupers. Part of this properly was purchased with £150, left by Alex. Every, in 1588, and the house formerly used as the parish workhouse, was given by Walter Young, in 1613. The net income is distributed in bread, at Christmas, and there is belonging to the trust part of a house at Honiton. A yearly rent charge of £5, out of Ham close, left by John Younge, in 1612, is distributed in shirts and shifts among poor old men and women. For a similar distribution annually among 20 poor parishioners, Leonard Periam left £100, in 1711. Of this legacy £60 was laid out in the purchase of 1 ½A., called the Brickfield, and now let for £4 a year. The remaining £40 is secured at 4½ per cent. interest, on the tolls of Bridport turnpike. The poor have also the following yearly sums, for distribution in bread, &c., viz., a rent charge of £5, out of 12A. of land, at Week, left by Anne Palmer, in 1815; the interest of £100, left by John Ellard, in 1815; a rent charge of 20s., left by Thos. Whitty, in 1713; and 4s., as interest of £5, left by Anne Scrivens. The FREE SCHOOL, for 12 poor boys and girls of Axminster, and two of Kilmington, was built by the parishioners about 1790, and is endowed with 6A. of land, purchased in 1746, with £160 given by Penelope Saffin, and other donors; and with 2A. givwn by the parishioners of Kilmington, on condition that they should send two free scholars.
Brian Randell, 6 Mar 1999