The Axminster Heritage Centre re-opens its doors for a second season on Monday, 3 April 2017. Entry remains free of charge for visitors to enjoy new exhibits, longer opening hours and more opportunities to be involved. Axminster’s Tourist Information Service has also now been sited within the building to provide a single focus for visitors.
Over the winter many of local volunteers have been working hard behind the scenes on several new displays which develop the story of Axminster’s past – its early beginnings as Stone and Bronze Age settlements, the importance of the waters of the River Axe and of Axminster as a river crossing point for Romans and other travellers, the importance of farming and the growth of industry particularly the story of Thomas Whitty and the history of his carpet business.
The new displays for 2017 include more about the modern Axminster Carpets started by the Dutfield family in 1937 and more about the town’s important brush making industry. They show Axminster to be not only enterprising but resilient, particularly during times of war. Visitors will learn from an eye-witness Parliamentarian account, for instance, that the town was almost completely destroyed by fire during the English Civil War.
This year’s displays also highlight some of the Eminent Victorians who shaped Axminster. They include local historian George Pulman, author of the ‘Book of the Axe’; Emily Conybeare, founder of the town’s original Cottage Hospital and James Davidson author of ‘A History of the Town and Parish of Axminster’. Fellow Victorian Dean William Buckland, one of Britain’s leading geologists, is the anchor for a new range of geological specimens. His fascinating account of the massive Axmouth landslip of 1839 brings alive this stretch of the coast, adding a new dimension to the coastal walk between Seaton and Lyme.
A programme of regular temporary exhibitions will start later in the year with a display of locally- made pottery and pottery commemorating local events or places. The popular ‘Heritage Alive’ events, talks, courses and get-togethers will continue offering the chance to get more involved. Axminster residents in particular can help chart and document the growth of the town during the 20th century. A ‘crowd sourcing’ project will soon be asking people ‘When was your house built?’
The Axminster Heritage Centre (incorporating the Tourist Information Service) opens Monday, April 3 2017 until end of October and is open weekdays 10:00 to 16:00; Saturdays: 10:00 to 13:00. Closed on Sundays. Entry is Free. Details of all this activity and copies of local history documents can all be found on the website: www.axminsterheritage.org