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Timeline

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Day Month Year Event
617 At around this time the Saxons moved into Devon from the East.
755 First recorded use of the name ‘Ascanmynster’.
789 Cynehard the Atheling-heir to the throne of Wessex-is buried at Axminster.
840 An era of repeated Viking raids on Devon (836 to 845).
899 King Alfred’s will passes the Manor of Axminster-by then a ‘burh’ (defended town) and principal settlement in the Hundred of Axminster-to his eldest son.
901 The Witan (Royal Council) meets at Axminster.
937 A major battle is fought near Axminster between the Saxons and the Vikings.
1003 Exeter sacked by the Vikings.
1086 Exeter subdued by the Normans.
1086 The Domesday Book records substantial settlements in the Axe valley-at Axminster-Kilmington-Musbury-Colyton and Axmouth.
1086 The Domesday Book records grist mills as well as settlements at Weycroft and Smallridge (Undercleave).
1204 King John makes William-Lord Briwer-the first Lord of the Manor of Axminster. The right to hold weekly markets is confirmed.
1210 The right to hold a week-long market is granted to Axminster.
1246 The Manor of Axminster is given to the Cistercians of Beaulieu to build an Abbey at Newenham (they also had Abbeys at Forde and Dunkeswell).
1250 At around this time the Saxon church is re-built in Norman style.
1255 The Abbey allows Axminster to establish ‘burgage plots’ (an important step in the transition from village to town).
1315 Newenham Abbey is trading in wool and woollen products with Florentine merchants.
1330 Newenham Abbey builds a farm at Breweshays (Westwater).
1333 Newenham Abbey builds a farmhouse at Bevor-a farm of about 770 acres.
1345 Newenham Abbey has farms at Tollershayes (Tolcis) and Yeatlands.
1348 The Abbot and two monks are the only survivors of the Black Death at Newenham Abbey.
1376 A chapel is licensed at Uphay by Bishop Brantyngham.
1395 Sir Thomas Brooke of Olditch buys the Weycroft estate-and builds a mansion and chapel.
1417 A chapel is licensed at Weycroft by Bishop Stafford.
1427 Sir Thomas Brooke encloses 800 acres at Weycroft.
Approx 1460 Weycroft Manor in disrepair-and the park is cultivated.
November 1497 King Henry VII stays at Newenham Abbey for a week.
1509 The mouth of the Axe is blocked to shipping by a sand bar thrown up by a huge storm.
1535 Newenham Abbey’s lands include distinct farms at Bevor-Furzeleigh-Shapwyke and Westwater.
8 March 1539 Newenham Abbey and its property is surrendered to the King’s Commissioners. The Market continues.
25 February 1543 Ownership of Newenham Abbey is settled on Catherine Parr on her marriage to King Henry VIII. A few years after her death it reverts briefly to the Crown.
1574 First mention (in a survey of the Manor) of the George Inn-Axminster.
1592 The town’s citizens are involved in a dispute with a mill owner over the water supply-by then about 40 years old-which starts on Furzeleigh Down.
1603 Weycroft Manor and mansion forfeited to the Crown-and settled on the Earl of Devon.
1605 The Manor of Axminster is bought for œ7-200 by Baron Petre of Writtle (Essex)-whose family held it for over 200 years.
1611 The Weycroft estate is bought by Sir Thomas Bennett-Sheriff of London-then broken up and sold.
1613 Many Axminster residents killed by an outbreak of Plague.
Approx 1640 The Manor of Smallridge is broken up and sold in small parcels.
January 1644 Royalist forces set fire to Ashe House after Parliamentary forces from Lyme had sought to establish a garrison there (the Drake family supported Parliament).
19 April 1644 Axminster is garrisoned by Prince Maurice and his Royalist troops and artillery-from 19 April to 15 June-as they lay siege to Lyme-damaging it badly but not capturing it.
Early November 1644 Royalist forces re-enter Axminster and start to settle in.
15 November 1644 Parliamentary forces from Lyme attack Axminster in a pre-emptive strike. The town is badly damaged by fire.
18 November 1644 Parliamentarians return and destroy the remaining houses and workshops. This was the most complete damage suffered by any English town during the Civil War.
October 1645 Sir Thomas Fairfax (Parliamentary General) bases his force at Axminster. There is fighting at Membury.
1645 Lord Petre estimates his costs for re-building Axminster at œ10-000. He re-built about 200 houses and associated workshops (and there will have been others).
18 June 1650 John Churchill of Ashe House and Great Trill baptised at Axminster. His mother was born Elizabeth Drake-daughter of the former Steward of Newenham Abbey.
1658 The first coach service from London to Exeter (via Axminster) begins. Journey time: 4 days.
By 1660 A small school is operating in Axminster-run by Rev Bartholomew Ashwood.
1665 John Churchill is appointed a Page to the Duke of York (the future James II).
8 April 1669 Cosmo de Medici-Grand Duke of Tuscany-visits Axminster (described by Count Megalotti-his Secretary-as about 289 houses mostly built of cob and thatch).
1670 Shapwick-the largest of the former Newenham Abbey grange farms-is sold to Solomon Andrew of Lyme Regis (and later to the Rhodes family).
24 July 1671 King Charles II passes through Axminster on his way back to London-accompanied by the Duke of Monkouth. The Church bells are rung.
1676 The ‘Compton Census’ records 889 conformists in Axminster parish-128 non-conformists and one Catholic.
1679 A beacon (probably not the first) is erected on Trinity Hill. The precise location has not been identified.
1685 John Churchill is created a Baron. He was a commander at the battle of Sedgmoor.
2 1685 The Duke of Monmouth stops in Axminster on his way to defeat at the Battle of Sedgmoor. He was executed soon after.
3 November 1685 One supporter of the Duke of Monmouth (Mr Rose-a gunner who landed with the Duke-not an Axminster resident) is hanged at Axminster.
1 1685 The ‘arctic winter’ of 1684/85 brings hardship to the town.
1686 Judge Jeffreys held a hearing at Axminster (as part of the ‘bloody Assizes’).
15 November 1688 William of Orange lands at Torbay-invited by politicians concerned at James II’s Catholic leanings.
24 November 1688 During William of Orange’s 3-night stay in Axminster-John Churchill defects from James II to support William-and ‘The Glorious Revolution’.
1692 John Churchill is sent to the Tower of London on suspicion of treason against William of Orange.
1698 Independent Church built at Axminster.
1700 Morris (an Exeter-based carrier of goods) uses the Dolphin Inn-Market Square as his base in Axminster.
Approx 1710 Terrace Lodge (later re-named Pippins) is built for Henry Knight.
1722 Death of John Churchill-Duke of Marlborough-the most successful General of his day.
1731 Outbreak of smallpox in Axminster.
Approx 1732 Cloakham House built for Edward Smith-a leading Quaker.
1738 First Workhouse established in Axminster-on West Street.
1739 The first known reference to the existence of a fire engine in Axminster.
1743 John Wesley’s first visit to Axminster-where he preaches. He returned to the town in 1744.
1746 A Free School is established in Axminster.
1746 Charles Wesley visits Axminster-and preaches.
1750 John Pester-rector of Axminster-reports that there are about 220 houses in Axminster-and another 120 in the rest of the parish. These may be under-estimates.
1753 The London-to-Exeter road (through Axminster) becomes a toll road.
25 April 1754 Thomas Whitty makes a sample of carpet on a conventional loom.
22 June 1755 Thomas Whitty finishes making a new perpendicular frame loom for knotted carpets.
1758 Oak House-Chard Street built for Simon Bunter-a local attorney.
1759 Fire destroys several houses in the town centre-and the Cross Keys Inn (where the George now stands).
1759 George Inn built in its present location-by Mr Drake. It becomes the premier coaching inn of the town.
1759 Thomas Whitty wins the third Royal Society competition for carpet manufacture outright-having shared first place with others the two previous years.
1760 Exeter carpet factory goes bankrupt.
1760 The Golden Lion Inn-an important coaching inn where Trinity Square now stands-is destroyed by fire.
1761 Hilary House is built for Amos Collard-a local attorney and Steward to the Petre estate. In 1763 he sells it to John Knight-his successor in both roles.
1763 A Friendly Society for men is founded in Axminster.
Approx 1765 John Knight establishes a Catholic chapel at his home-Hilary House-for the use of his local co-religionists.
August 1766 After a gap of 20 years John Wesley re-visits Axminster-and preaches.
1766 A Friendly Society for women is founded in Axminster.
1767 The invention of the ‘Spinning Jenny’ spells the beginning of the end for an important Devon cottage industry.
1767 An unsuccessful attempt is made to sink a coal mine at Pinney Wood-near Weycroft.
September 1768 John Wesley’s final visit to Axminster.
1773 Invention of the ‘Flying Shuttle’ marks the start of large-scale weaving-and the decline of another cottage industry.
1774 Wesleyan Meeting House established in Axminster.
1776 The winter is particularly cold-with snow still lying in March.
1776 Castle Hill House-North Street is built for Robert Hallett-a local wine and spirit merchant-and manufacturer of tapes.
1778 A detailed map of the Petre Estate’s land holdings in Axminster parish is completed-by James Haywood.
1780 The Market House with a Guildhall Room set above the butchers’ stalls (with the shambles behind) is demolished.
1780 John Thatcher-bailiff to the Petre estate-is appointed Captain of the Fire Brigade.
1782 The Manor of Trill is sold by the Drake family (of Ashe House-Musbury) to the Rev. George Tucker.
1782 A new fire engine is given to the town by the Petre estate.
12 March 1784 William Buckland born at Axminster. He became a leader of the new science of geology-and (from 1845) Dean of Westminster.
1785 The first Mail Coach service from London to Exeter (via Axminster) is established. Journey time: 24 hours.
Approx 1785 A visitor to Axminster reports being unable to get any butter-because it was all being sold to London merchants.
1786 A fire adjacent to the White Hart destroys 15 dwellings.
1787 Abigail Adams (wife of John-later President of the USA) visits Axminster-and the carpet factory.
1787 Hail and sleet storms are followed by frosts in June.
13 August 1789 King George III and Queen Charlotte visit Axminster-and the carpet factory.
September 1789 A fire in Market Place is stopped from spreading by men from the 1st Regiment of the Dragoon Guards.
April 1790 A major snow storm hits Devon.
1793 Death of Thomas Whitty senior.
1795 A bank is founded by Axminster by Messrs Hallett-Steven & Whitty jr.
1796 A fire destroys the Methodist Meeting House on South Street (and 18 houses). A replacement chapel is built on Castle Street.
1796 The Western Academy-a training college for the Congregational Church (later United Reform Church) opens on West Street.
1797 The Old Vicarage is built on Silver Street-opposite the Old Carpet Factory.
Approx 1798 Axminster School moves to a site on West Street.
by 1800 Moorfield carpet factory (one of Whitty’s last remaining British competitors) goes bankrupt.
1800 Improvement works to the Parish Church are completed-including a new aisle.
1800 An exceptionally dry year with a very hot summer.
1800 The Western Hotel (later the Anchor-the Railway Inn and the Cavalier) is built.
15 July 1808 Severe hail and thunder storms affect Devon-leading to crop losses.
20 April 1809 Significant snow storms are experienced.
1810 Death of Thomas Whitty jr.
1812 Prices for woollen cloth are seriously depressed-while food prices are high-due to the Napoleonic wars.
1814 The last of the ‘London ice fairs’ marks the end of the mini ice-age which affected the whole country.
1816 The volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora-Indonesia in 1815 leads to the ‘year with no summer’ in Europe in 1816.
1817 Samuel Thatcher takes over as Captain of the Fire Brigade.
1819 George Philip Rigney Pulman-author of the ‘Book of the Axe’ and founder of Pulman’s Weekly News-is born at Axminster.
1820 By this time Thomas Whitty employs over 100 persons-mostly women and children.
1820 James Davidson-the leading historian of Axminster-buys Secktor.
1821 The census records a population of 1-700 for the town-and another 1-040 in the surrounding parish lands
1822 Axminster School has 144 pupils.
1824 Lord Petre sells most of his Axminster land (and the manorial rights) to James Alexander Frampton (a London lawyer) and William Knight (son of Lord Petre’s former Steward).
25 January 1825 William Tucker of Coryton-Kilmington buys a large portion of Westwater from the Manor of Axminster. By his death in 1855 he owned 780 acres in Axminster parish.
1825 Hill House (later re-named Old Park) is built for Rawlin Mallack-a local attorney.
4 July 1826 Lord Petre sells a large block of land (320 acres) including Bevor to Thomas Barns of Tillworth-Hawkchurch.
29 November 1826 Axminster gets 21 street lights (one of the first towns in England to do so). Unfortunately the necessary funds do not materialise-and the lights are re-possessed.
Approx 1826 United Reform Chapel opened at Axminster.
January 1828 Thomas Whitty’s Silver Street carpet factory destroyed by fire.
1828 The Western Academy (on West Street) closes.
1829 New and larger carpet factory opened on Silver Street.
By 1829 Thomas Russell & Co (an Exeter-based carrier of goods) used the Bell Inn as his base from at least 1829 to 1853.
16 August 1831 The Catholic Church is opened in Axminster-lagely paid for by Henry Knight of Terrace Lodge.
1831 The census records a population of 2-720 for the parish-living in 522 houses-of which roughly 330 would have been in the town itself.
1831 Outbreak of cholera in Axminster.
1832 The tunnel between Axminster and Charmouth is opened by Axminster Turnpike Trust-significantly assisting road links on the way to London.
1834 On Trinity Sunday a major fire damages or destroys many buildings in the town centre. The opportunity is taken to widen the road and create Trinity Square.
1834 Dissatisfaction among farm workers is highlighted by the Tolpuddle Martyrs case of 1834.
1835 Thomas Whitty’s carpet factory goes bankrupt. The machinery is moved to Wilton-near Salisbury.
1835 A new Workhouse built on the south side of town-replacing the one on West Street.
1836 Axminster’s only remaining manufacturer is Messrs Hallett & Fowler’s tape-making business-on North Street.
1836 South Street suffers a further serious fire.
1838 The Tithe Apportionment process is carried out for Axminster parish (with accompanying map).
Approx 1838 After a gap of 12 years-street lighting is re-installed in Axminster town centre-this time more permanently.
1838 A meeting of the Church Vestry decides not to spend any further money on the fire brigade (but does not scrap it).
1842 The Axminster Turnpike Trust starts to build a new road round Kilmington Hill-down-slope from the old Roman Road alignment-and not so steep.
1842 Axminster Union is created from 18 local parishes. The existing parish workhouse is expanded.
1842 William Reginald Hayman born at Axminster. In 1868 he was the manager of the Australian Aboriginal cricket team’s tour of England.
1844 Exeter is connected to Bristol via the first railway line to reach Devon. Axminster starts a 16-year period of relative disadvantage compared to much of East Devon.
1847 Dorchester is connected to the rail network.
1848 The railway line from Exeter is extended to Plymouth.
1853 Yeovil is connected to the rail network.
1854 The railway line from Exeter to Barnstaple is completed.
1 October 1855 The churchyard is closed to further burials. The new cemetery on Chard Road is opened.
1855 Devonshire Police Committee buys a house on Church Street-demolishes it and builds the Police Station and cells-with a room for Court hearings above.
1856 Axminster’s first hospital is established in the old Carpet Factory building on Silver Street by Miss M A Conybeare.
1857 Bridport is connected by rail to both London (via Dorchester) and Bristol.
1857 Pulman’s Weekly News is founded.
1859 Construction of the Salisbury-to-Exeter railway line is in full swing at Axminster. The station is built.
18 July 1860 Axminster is finally connected to the rail network-with its own station on the London-to-Exeter line.
1860 A particularly wet year in Devon.
1862 The Catholic Church on Lyme Road is re-built by Henry Knight (son of the original benefactor).
29 February 1864 James Davidson of Secktor House-the leading historian of Axminster-dies aged 70-and is buried at Axminster.
1865 Outbreak of typhoid in Axminster.
1866 James Boon moves his woolstapling and cloth business to Axminster from Uplyme-following a desastrous fire at his mill there.
1872 Henry Knight (son of William-the joint purchaser of the Manor) becomes Lord of the Manor of Axminster.
10 March 1874 A School Board is elected-chaired by William Forward-a local solicitor.
Approx 1874 Axminster Cricket Club is formed.
2 November 1875 Lady Emma Tulloch of Old Park gives the land on which Woodbury (or South Axminster) National School is then built.
1875 The ‘Board School’ is opened on the former site of Paradise Lodge-between Chard Street and Lyme Road-with a total of 420 places for boys-girls and infants.
1877 Axminster Turnpike Trust closes-with responsibilities passing to the Highways Board.
1879 The Dolphin Inn (on Market Square) is damaged by fire-and a further fire in 1881 ensures its final closure.
22 July 1879 Serious flooding in Devon-and one of the coldest and wettest Summers recorded. Widespread crop failures.
1880 Woodbury (or South Axminster) National School is expanded-providing 90 places for boys-girls and infants.
1880 Blizzards throughout much of England leading to widespread losses of sheep.
3 February 1880 George Philip Rigney Pulman-author of the ‘Book of the Axe’ and founder of Pulman’s Weekly News-dies aged 60.
1881 Devon is hit by a 48-hour blizzard.
Approx 1881 Edwin Dawkins establishes his drapery business on Victoria Place.
1882 An exceptionally wet autumn led to many winter crops not being planted at all.
1882 The town’s new water supply system is completed.
Approx 1883 James Coate moves his brush-making business (founded in London in 1847) to factories near Chard and in Axminster.
1883 The Mission Chapel on Woodbury Lane is built with the financial support of Lady Emma Tullock of Old Park.
1885 An unusually dry year.
Approx 1886 Edwin Chapple-local bank manager and insurance agent-revives the fire brigade.
1887 Miss M A Conybeare opens the 14-bed Axminster Cottage Hospital (expanding the existing facilities)-in Thomas Whitty’s former Silver Street factory.
1887 Another unusually dry year.
1887 Jubilee Fountain erected in Trinity Square. It is moved to its present position in 1898.
Approx 1889 Bidwell Brothers move their brush-making business (founded in London in 1839) from Ottery St Mary to Axminster.
March 1891 Serious blizzards and deep snow drifts in Devon.
1893 Hardly any rain falls from February to July.
1893 The fire brigade fires a jet of water over the Church tower to demonstrate its vigour.
1894 The Town and Parish Councils take over responsibility for municipal governance from the Church Vestry assembly of ratepayers.
1894 The Methodist Church on Lyme Road is built.
November 1894 Gales and floods throughout the lower Axe valley damage houses in Axminster and sweep away some bridges.
1894 Heavy frosts and deep snowdrifts over the winter of 1894/95.
1895 Civil War damage to the Church tower is finally repaired.
1897 Church clock and chimes donated by W E Pitfield Chapple-solicitor and Chairman of the first Parish Council.
1902 Axminster Town Football Club is formed.
24 August 1903 The branch railway line from Axminster to Lyme Regis is opened.
1905 Axminster Carnival is revived after a break of a few years (regular events were held during the 1890s-and a torchlight procession was held in 1900).
1909 King Edward Road is created-relieving the pressure on South Street and the town end of the Musbury Road. At the same time the houses on Alexandra Road are built.
1 September 1911 The foundation stone for the new Axminster Hospital is laid on the current (Chard Street) site.
18 June 1912 The new Axminster Hospital is opened by Mrs Emily Conybeare Craven-one of the prime movers behind the project.
October 1912 The Livestock Market moves to the Coombe Fields site (off South Street)-with space for 400 cattle-500 calves-2-000 sheep and 500 pigs.
1914 Work starts on the town’s new sewerage system. It is completed by 1918.
1920 An exceptionally cold year-with slight frosts in the Yarty valley reported throughout the Summer.
1921 Henry Norrington Ltd purchases the iron foundry at the foot of Castle Hill from George Heal & Sons.
September 1921 The War Memorial is dedicated.
1922 Axminster School is re-built on the same site.
25 December 1927 Heavy snow and deep drifts throughout East Devon.
1929 Foot and mouth disease hits East Devon-and farmers meet in Axminster to express their disquiet.
1931 The Guildhall is built for the Town Council-replacing offices at Oak House-Chard Street.
1934 Axminster Health Centre established on Church Street by Dr A L Crawford. It is the first such centre to be built in England.
1936 Harry Dutfield moves to Axminster-and starts to build a new carpet factory near the railway station-with local investors Messrs R J Luff and S O Gill.
May 1937 The first carpet from Axminster Carpets Ltd is exhibited in Potter’s shop-Harry Dutfield having won a bet that he could hit that target by Coronation Day (12 May).
1938 Hundreds of acres of farmland are flooded-along with the new Axminster Carpets factory (to a depth of a few inches).
May 1939 The Devon County Show is held at Axminster.
1939 Axe Vale Laundry merges with White Rose Laundry-Lyme Regis-with the merged company continuing to be based in Axminster.
1939 The Cedars Hotel opens in a converted house on the corner of Silver Street and Musbury Road.
21 April 1940 A German bomb hits Market Square-killing at least one person.
1941 J H Shand’s Axminster engineering factory opens. They had moved from London to reduce the chances of being affected by wartime bombing.
28 June 1942 A German incendiary bomb hits Axminster Hospital. Other buildings in the town are also damaged at around the same time.
1942 There is a case of foot and mouth disease on a farm at Membury.
1943 A US Military Hospital is built at Millwey Rise-with 600 beds.
December 1944 Some of the worst flooding in the Axe valley for many years.
January 1947 The worst blizzard for over 50 years hits Axminster and East Devon.
Approx 1948 The first civilian residents start to occupy the former US Military Hospital site-initially as ‘squatters’-but then by agreement with the Council.
1955 Church Street is significantly widened.
1955 Bidwell Brothers’ brushworks closes down.
January 1963 Blizzards affect Axminster. Some roads are closed to traffic for weeks-and milk has to be brought into Trinity Square by tractor for collection.
27 September 1965 The branch railway line from Axminster to Lyme Regis is closed.
1970 Severe summer floods cause great damage to the Yarty valley in particular. The road bridge between Axminster and Kilmington is seriously damaged.
1974 The Police Station and Magistrate’s Court moves to Lyme Close.
1975 Jaffe et Fils Ltd move their feather business into premises at the foot of Castle Hill.
February 1978 A blizzard affects the whole area. The Seaton-to-Sidmouth road is blocked for 5 days.
31 October 1983 Axe Vale Laundry closes-and the land (off North Street) is then used for housing.
1988 J H Shand’s Axminster factory closes.
1988 The Green Dragon-at the foot of Castle Hill-finally closes.
1990 Coate’s  remaining brush business merges with A Simpson. The business was wound up in 1994 (having closed down in Axminster many years before).
1990 Work starts on the Axminster by-pass.
1991 Axminster by-pass is opened to traffic.
2001 A national outbreak of foot and mouth disease severely disrupts the marketing of farm animals-and closes Axminster Market for many weeks.
2006 The site of Axminster Livestock Market is sold for re-development as housing.

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