This section of the website is intended to provide basic information on selected individuals and groups of individuals linked to Axminster, plus a small amount of contextual information to indicate the size of the pool in which those individuals and groups swam.
The information is currently organised under four headings, but this is likely to change over time as further research is carried out.
Pen portraits of prominent and interesting residents
You can download from here a PDF containing Pen portraits of a selection of people with strong connections to Axminster, either by birth or residency. Most, but by no means all, were born between 1700 and 1900.
One family which is closely associated with Axminster but which is not included in the PDF (because no family members were born here or lived here) is the Petre family, who from 1605 to 1824 owned the Manor of Axminster. Their names and dates can be found on the website of their main residence, Ingatestone Hall. You may wish to look at the ‘History’ section of that website, as well as the ‘Family Tree’ provided there. A more detailed Petre family tree is accessible via the website of Queen Mary College, London (use the Links page of this website, and simply put ‘WWTN Petre’ into that website’s search box).
Although he is covered in the Pen Portraits file (see above), there is so much more to say about Dr William Buckland, and the details of his life are so relatively hard to find, that we have assembled an extended account of his life which can be accessed via the link in this paragraph.
We would welcome suggestions of other notable residents who died before 1950 for future inclusion here, particularly if you can also supply some of the necessary information.
Early Axminster wills
The National Archives holds a searchable database of wills which can be purchased by interested parties. By their very nature, such wills were generally made by persons who were richer than average. In the case of people who are identified as being from Axminster these cover the date range from 1415 to 1857.
The spreadsheet which is linked below contains basic details of all 319 of these ‘Axminster wills’. To save your time, the 193 surnames which appear there are listed below, and those surnames to which three or more wills are attached are shown in bold.
The Findmypast.co.uk website has a much larger database of ‘Devon wills’, for those who are particularly interested in this topic.
Adams, Alexander, Anning, Anstice, Apsey, Ashwood, Bagwill, Baker, Barber, Barrow, Bartlett, Belmye, Bevan, Bilke, Bishop, Boalch, Bobbet, Bond, Bonner, Bowden, Bowdige, Bowditch, Bragg, Bridge, Brown, Bryne, Buckland, Bull, Bunter, Burroughs, Case, Cawley, Cazalar, Champ, Chapple, Chare, Charretie, Chase, Chast, Clarke, Cogan, Cole, Collier, Come, Conder, Coombs, Cooper, Copleston, Cort, Cossens, Daniell, Davie, Deane, Dight, Dimment, Domett, Dowell, Downe, Drake, Drew, Dymond, Eastabrook, Edwards, Evans, Eydmann, Farrant, Finnemore, Fisher, Fletcher, Follett, Forward, Fowler, Frye, Gamis, Gamon, Gill, Goule, Gray, Grone, Gudhill, Guise, Guppy, Hallett, Hancock, Harner, Harris, Harte, Harvey, Hawkins, Hayman, Hembery, Hill, Hitt, Hollard, Hore, Hoskins, House, Hutchins, Jackson, Keate, Kentsbeare, King, Knight, Lawrence, Legge, Lendey, Lewes, Liddall, Liddon, Long, Loren, Lovelass, Lucas, Lugge, Lumbard, Mallock, Manfield, Marshall, Masselhayes, Miller, Mitchell, Mussell, Newbery, Newman, Newton, Northmore, Northover, Northren, Orchard, Osborne, Owsley, Palmer, Parratt, Parson, Pearce, Pearse, Pell, Pering, Pett, Phelps, Pinney, Plummer, Poole, Raymond, Reed, Robertson, Roper, Rowe, Rydon, Sandford, Sellwood, Seward, Shore, Slade, Small, Smith, Spence, Spiller, Staples, Steer, Stevens, Stocker, Street, Stringfellow, Strong, Sumption, Symes, Tanner, Taunton, Thomas, Throne, Tomkins, Trisshe, Tucker, Turner, Verier, Warden, Warren, Warrey, Watts, Waye, Weare, Wheeler, White, Whitty, Willan, Williams, Willmott, Wills, Woolley, Wright, Wyett, Younge.
Axminster Wills – An Excel Spreadsheet
Axminster’s early Parish Registers (from 1559 to 1812) were indexed late in the 19th century, and from that index it is possible to build up a good general sense of those family names which have most commonly been found here over that period. By clicking on the following link (Parish Register surnames) you can download a simple summary document setting out a broad ranking of the 201 most commonly-found local surnames.
The War Memorial
This section of the website is intended to commemorate the men of Axminster who were killed fighting in the two world wars of the 20th century. The objective is to provide some background information on who they were, and how their links to Axminster had come about.
The main sources used in the research have been (1) the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; (2) census and birth / marriage / death records from ancestry.co.uk; and (3) the britishnewspaperarchives.co.uk website.
A common format has been adopted for presenting the resultant information, and while it would be both possible and desirable to include some further details if surviving family members would like to do this, our aim will be to keep the length of each entry broadly comparable.
The Heritage Centre has a copy of a poster which lists many more persons from Axminster who were serving in the British Army and Navy by late 1914. In due course we will include this information.
If anyone knows of Axminster servicemen who were killed in the Korean War, Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Afghanistan, Iraq or any other post-1945 campaign, and can furnish us with the necessary details, we would be pleased to expand this section to pay appropriate tribute to them as well.
World War I (1914 to 1918)
The Axminster War Memorial, which was erected and dedicated in 1921, provides a tribute to 66 men who by then had died as a direct consequence of their service in World War I. Their names appear on three panels, on the west, south and east faces of the Memorial.
There are several other men with well-known local surnames and direct connections to Axminster whose names can be found on other nearby War Memorials. As well as dealing with the 66 names on the Axminster War Memorial this document contains details of a further nine men with clear links to Axminster at some stage in their lives, but whose names have not been found on any local War Memorial. In some cases they had moved away from the town before the war, and in others it appears that they had no surviving family members living locally to speak for them when the War Memorial was being designed. Their links are, however, at least as strong as some of those whose names do appear.
It was not, of course, a simple matter to decide whose name should and whose should not appear on any town or village War Memorial. Those who were born and brought up locally, and whose families continued to live in Axminster, would be obvious candidates for inclusion. What is equally clear is that one of the main determining factors was where the parents of fallen servicemen lived: some of the men named on the Axminster War Memorial had few personal links to the town, but their parents did. In at least one instance of three brothers who were killed, two had lived locally for some years but one either had not, or had only done so for a short period. However, it would have been very difficult to justify to the grieving parents including two of the names but not the third.
Of the 66 named individuals, in only one instance (that of Albert H Parker) has no connection to the town (yet) been found, and it is uncertain which of several servicemen whose records have been assembled by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was him.
Of the 74 men for whom details have been traced, 16 are buried in the United Kingdom, including in eight in Axminster Cemetery. Of those who are buried or whose names appear on British War Memorials overseas, 28 are in France, 14 in Belgium and 12 in Iraq. The other four are buried one each in Germany, Greece, Latvia and Turkey.
Six of the 74 men died in 1914, 12 in 1915, 20 in 1916, 17 in 1917, 15 in 1918 and four in 1919.
Throughout the War, and well before the issue of which names were to be carved onto the War Memorial had even been thought about, the press carried reports of Axminster casualties. Most of these reports were simple lists of names of those who had been killed and wounded. Some reports, however, provide a local and contemporary perspective on how many men regarded as being from Axminster had been killed.
The Western Times of 21 January 1916 reported that the vicar of Axminster, Rev E Bramwell, had held a memorial service for “those gallant local men who have lost their lives whilst serving King and country”. Most had been Privates in the British Expeditionary Force. The following names were reported: Cecil G Elson, Charles F Chant, William A Claybyn, Edward C Claybyn, John Spiller, Frederick J Stentiford, Frederick G White, John Froom, Archibald J Harris, Edwin Snell, Charles F Sprague, Percy H Gribble, Leonard H Gardiner (see below), Philip Young, Ben Hoskins, Reginald Hoskins, William Haysom, William J Russell and Francis F Chick.
Of these 19 names all except one appear on the War Memorial. The exception is Leonard H Gardiner. He was married to Edwin Snell’s sister Eva, but had no other strong link to Axminster.
The Western Times of 23 June 1916 reported that a further memorial church service had been held. The further names cited were: Henry Albert Bruce, Sidney James Tucker and John Harris.
The Exeter & Plymouth Gazette of 17 February 1917 reported that five Axminster men had been killed in a single day: Sergeants L W Lethaby and F C Perham, and Privates F W Coote and L W and R C Sprague. All had been killed at Kut-al-Amara in Mesopotamia (Iraq). The number of Axminster men killed so far was put at 33.
The Exeter & Plymouth Gazette of 9 June 1917 reported the death of Charles Enticott, and described him as the 36th Axminster man to have been killed.
The Western Times of 9 November 1917 reported that a further church service had been held for the 42 men of Axminster killed to date.
The clear implication is that only a relatively small number of names not mentioned above were included on the final War Memorial.
WWI names – a PDF file
World War II (1939 to 1945)
At the end of World War II a further 19 names were carved onto a tablet which was then mounted on the north face of the War Memorial.
We can also provide some information on all 19, plus one further serviceman whose links to Axminster were equally strong, but whose name has not been found on any of the local War Memorials, and one more who had no clear links to the town, beyond the fact that he is buried in Axminster Cemetery.
Of the 21 men whose details are given six are buried in the United Kingdom (four in Axminster Cemetery), four in Italy, three in The Netherlands, two each in Egypt and Germany, and one each in Canada, India, Kenya and Palestine.
Four of them were killed in 1940, three more in both 1942 and 1943, six in 1944 and five in 1945.
WWII names – a PDF file
Axminster’s population count over time
Axminster’s population compared to neighbouring towns, in the early 19th century
At the time of the 1801 census Axminster (the parish, not just the town) had a total resident population of 2,154. This was the sixth highest parish total in a semi-circular region extending from Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary in the west, to Chard in the North, and Bridport in the east. The five parishes in this semi-circle which had larger populations in 1801 were (in declining size order) Bridport, Chard, Crewkerne, Ottery St Mary and Honiton. This emphasises the fact that looking at Axminster simply in the context of Devon is misleading.
By 1831 there were 20 parishes in the same semi-circular region which had a population of at least 1,000 persons, eight of them at that time in Devon (bearing in mind that county boundaries changed significantly in 1844), ten in Dorset and two in Somerset.
Axminster’s population by then had grown to 2,719 (26% higher than in 1801, having been 2,387 in 1811 and 1,742 in 1821). However, some other parishes had grown considerably faster, and Axminster’s population had dropped to eighth position in this ‘regional mini-league’, having been overtaken by Sidmouth (the fastest-growing parish of all) and Beaminster.
However, when property values were recorded in 1815, Axminster was shown to be substantially wealthier than either Bridport or Chard (the two largest towns) in terms of total property value, and richer in terms of property value per resident than all but a few much smaller towns (the 1815 population estimates used to make this calculation being based on the official census returns for 1811 and 1821).
This position is illustrated by the following diagram (which also shows the main road connections at that time), and the underlying data are all contained in the table below the diagram. They come from the official census and property value returns, which are accessible on the hathitrust.org website.
|Parish||County (in 1801)||Census population||Property value (£) in 1815||£/person (1815)|
|1801||1831||Growth 1801 to 1831)|
|Ottery St Mary||Devon||2,415||3,849||59%||17,682||5.64|
|Seaton and Beer||Devon||1,497||1,803||20%||5,684||3.53|
Axminster’s population growth compared to Devon as a whole
The following graph shows the relative pace of population growth in Axminster parish compared to Devon as a whole. As can be seen, after growing reasonably rapidly between 1801 and 1841, the population stagnated until the early 1900s. More recently Axminster’s growth has been faster than that of the rest of Devon (taken as a whole), but our share oif the county total is still lower than it was in 1801.
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