The Weavers’ Tales is an audio documentary produced as part of the 250th anniversary celebrations of the making of the first Axminster Carpet. It was produced in 17 parts by renowned radio documentary producer Brian Vaughton and digitally remastered for the web by Revd Gavin Tyte.

1. Introduction

An introduction and history of carpets.


2. Thomas Whitty

Thomas Whitty was born in Honiton in 1716. Later he worked for his father in Axminster as a mercer. In London he saw some imported bales of Turkey carpet, and thought that he could make a loom to produce similar wares.


3. The First Axminster Carpet

In 1755 Thomas Whitty wove the first Axminster Carpet, and the Minster bells were rung. Carpets of distinction were displayed in the Congregational Church. In 1789 George II and Queen Charlotte came to Axminster to visit the carpet factory.


4. Examples of Original Thomas Whitty Carpet


5. A Remarkable Man

Thomas Whitty – “a remarkable man, to conceive carpets of flowers.” Thomas Whitty dies in 1792. Eventually, the business goes bankrupt in 1837. No carpets were then made in Axminster for 100 years.


6. Memories of Old Axminster

“a little market town”


7. Axminster Carpets Restarts

How Harry Dutfield came to Axminster, to restart the carpet industry. 1937 – building starts on the present carpet factory, on a green field site. Staff are taken on, and the first small looms make carpet. The first girl weaver.


8. War Breaks Out

1939 – 45 war breaks out. Carpet making ceases. A workshop produces various parts for the war effort. American Army camp in Axminster – “lovely dances, wonderful times”.


9. The Spotting Tent

The ‘Spotting Tent’ had no lights in it. Fun with the girls! Self-build bungalow scheme for men returning from war service.


10. The Designing of Axminster Carpets


11. Harry Dutfield

Harry Dutfield – the man, and his character. Harry Dutfield gets married and has a son, Simon. The factory celebrates 50 years of carpet production.


12. Simon Dutfield

Simon Dutfield takes over as MD – a career choice between farming or carpet making.


13. Drysdales

1960 – Harry Dutfield starts up a mill in New Zealand. the Drysdale breed of sheep is created. In 1976 some Drysdales are imported to the UK. The original plan was to use their wool for direct use in the making of Axminster carpets. Drysdale have to be sheared twice a year.


14. Buckfast Spinning Company

The mill handles the finest wool fleeces, and they are blended, dyed and spun into perfect carpet yarn. “Wool is nearly a living thing, without being too over-dramatic!”


15. Changes in 40 Years

Over the past 40 years the actual method of carpet making has changed very little, but looms are larger and faster. Comparisons with Thomas Whitty, when he was making hand-knotted carpets.


16. The Future of Axminster Carpets

What is the future of Axminster Carpets? Axminster people should be proud of what Thomas Whitty did. There’s always going to be a need for Axminsters – “We make the best carpet!”


17. Credits


Produced by Brian Vaughton

  • Graham Ayers
  • Esther Broome
  • Les Broom
  • Dr John Church
  • Andrew Dutfield
  • Simon Dutfield
  • Jack Gill
  • Steve Hine
  • Sheila Hughes
  • Graham Knowles
  • Chris Margates
  • Dave Salter
  • Frank Stocker

With assistance from:

  • Elaine Evans
  • Revd Robin Diffy
  • Brian Gardner
  • Anthony Shlemerdine
  • Graham Turner
  • Reg Ward
  • Tim Whitehead
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