[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]

"AXMINSTER, a parish and market town in the hundred of Axminster, in the county of Devon, 25 miles S. from Taunton railway station, 25 miles to the E. of Exeter, and 147 miles from London. It is a station on the South-Western line to Exeter, and is situated on the east side of the river Axe, in the eastern extremity of the county, and on the border of Dorsetshire, only 6 miles N.W. from the seaport town of Lyme Regis, in that county. The parish includes the tythings of Beerhall, Westwater, Wyke, and several others. The celebrated battle of Brunanburgh, the Angle-Saxon name of Axminster, is supposed to have been fought here in 937, between King Athelstan and the Danish invaders whom he had expelled from Northumbria. In remembrance of that battle, the royal manor of Prestaller, in this parish, and the church of Axminster were given by the king to the church of York, and still remain the property of the prebendal stalls of Grindal and Warthill in that cathedral. The manor of Axminster belonged in the middle ages to the Abbey of Newenham, and is now in lay hands. During the civil war, a battle was fought near this town between the forces of the king and the parliament, in which Sir R. Cholmondeley fell.

The town of Axminster is not incorporated, and the parish is divided into ten tythings, governed by ten surveyors, four overseers, two churchwardens, and two paid constables, all nominated at vestry meetings annually. Previously to 1834, the streets in front of the church were very narrow and circuitous, but on the 24th of May in that year, being Trinity Sunday, a great fire occurred, which consumed twenty-four houses, on the site of which Trinity Square has since been built, facing the church. Axminster obtained a name and distinction for itself by the manufacture of carpets which rivalled in their beauty and durability the works of Eastern looms. The manufacture was introduced in 1755, but has long been discontinued, owing to the great cost of production and the limited demand for the carpets. The machinery was removed to Wilton in 1835, and the factory, a modern building west of the church, converted into the county court house and a private residence.

Owing to the diversion of the traffic by the construction of the Great Western and the Bristol and Exeter railways, the trade and prosperity of the town had much declined; but it is likely again to revive, now that the South Western line to Exeter is completed, on which it is a station. A small mill for the winding and throwing of silk has recently been erected. There are also three corn and grist mills worked by water-power, and a malting-house, but no breweries.

The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Exeter, value, with the perpetual curacies of Kilmington and Membury, £975, in the patronage of the Conybeare family as lessees under the church of York. A church existed in this place as early as the 7th century; but of this, and of the later fabric of Athelstan, there are no remains. Of the present church, which is dedicated to St. Mary, the earliest part (except a Norman doorway is the small but good chancel of very early decorate work, A.D. 1315; the north aisle, of late perpendicular work, was built about 1525; and a south aisle added about fifty years ago. The church contains a handsome carved pulpit of 1613, and a very beautiful altar window, recently erected in memory of the Rev. W. J. Conybeare, the late vicar. There are chapels belonging to the Wesleyan Methodists and Independents, and a new and handsome one belonging to the Roman Catholics. Not far from the town are some slight remains of the Abbey of Newenham, which was founded in 1346 for monks of the Cistercian order. At the Dissolution its revenue was £231.

The parochial charities amount to £64 per annum. Axminster is the seat of a county court district and of a Poor-law Union. Petty sessions are held here once a fortnight. There have been no hundred or manor courts held, as formerly, for a quarter of a century, in consequence of the estates and manor being in chancery. The ancient churchyard of Axminster was closed in 1855, in pursuance of the Extra Metropolitan Burials Act, and a cemetery formed about half a mile from the town, adjoining the Chard road. Dr. Buckland, the geologist, was a native of this town. The market is held on Tuesday and Friday, and fairs on the first Tuesday after the 25th of April, the first Wednesday after the 24th of June and after the 10th of October."

"ABBEY, a tything in the parish and hundred of Axminster, in the county of Devon. It is not far from the town of Axminster."

"BEERHALL, a tything in the parish of Axminster, and hundred of the same name, in the county of Devon, not far from Axminster."

"SHAPWICK, a tything in the parish of Axminster, county Devon, near Axminster."

"SMALLRIDGE, a tything in the parish of Axminster, county Devon, near Axminster."

"TRILL, a tything in the parish of Axminster, county Devon, 2 miles S.W. of Axminster."

"UPHAY, a tything in the parish of Axminster, county Devon, near Axminster."

"WESTWATER, a tything in the parish and hundred of Axminster, county Devon, 2 miles N.W. of Axminster."

"WEYCROFT, a tything in the parish of Axminster, county Devon, 2 miles from Axminster."

"WYKE, (or Week), a tything in the parish of Axminster, county Devon, 1 mile from Axminster.

Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003