The town has origins in the Bronze and Stone Ages, later becoming a major crossroads on the Roman Fosse Way. It became a busy agricultural market town post its 1210 charter and an important brush making centre, notably for toothbrushes. Axminster’s world famous quality carpet making business is at the heart of our story. A local man, Thomas Whitty, set up his manufactory in 1755 and it ran until 1835. We regularly add new displays relating to different community interests, these complement our permanent exhibitions.
In addition to the displays in the Gallery we regularly present talks, films, craft courses and social events, see the ‘What’s On’ for details. Fittingly all this is housed on the site of the factory Whitty built for his family business and which subsequently served the town as a court-house and a hospital.
We are always interested in new information, photographs and material about Axminster and the surrounding villages, and keen to receive comments, corrections and suggestions from people who know the town well, and have views on events which have shaped it. From time to time we have questions about projects with which you may be able to help.
Please help us by completing this short questionnaire.
Our objective is to create a reliable record of when houses in the town were built, so that we can produce a detailed account showing the ‘waves of growth’ that have affected Axminster since 1900. Your involvement will be crucial to the success of this project.
The final phase of the restoration to Thomas Whitty House and the creation of a modern interactive display exhibition is now underway, thanks to a National Lottery grant awarded by The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This work will considerably enlarge the Gallery display area and create a modern interactive attraction with wider appeal. The existing displays will be reinterpreted in order to do justice to both the heritage collection and the rich history of Axminster. In addition, the entrance carriageway and old Drill Hall will be restored, including the addition of a mezzanine floor for conservation and research work, storage and a new office. A new reception area will include a small shop and the visitor information point.
During 2018 the Heritage Centre will be open from 26th March until the end of October but with a smaller display whilst the work is underway. The new visitor displays will then be installed by February 2019 in time for the Centre to open at the end of March for the 2019 season.