The history of Axminster carpets

Thomas Whittey, a carpet weaver from Devon, created carpets from 1755 that could match the look and quality of a large Turkish carpet he fell in love with at a London market. Looking more like floor tapestries, the carpets quickly became a “must have” in elite households. But in 1828 a disastrous fire destroyed the weaving looms and seven years later the heir, Samuel Rampson Whitty, was declared bankrupt.

A hundred years later a chance meeting on a train between a vicar and another carpet manufacturer, Harry Dutfield, would result in the revival of the once famous Axminster carpets. Learning that no carpets have been made in Axminster since the terrible fire and having had difficulties with his own carpet business in Kidderminster due to the Depression and Unions, Dutfield secured land leases in Axminster to build a new factor, but after World War II raw materials were scares, so Dutfield bought a woollen mill at Buckfast that enabled him to establish the company on its original basis, being the complete "from fleece to floor" carpet maker.

The company has had a few famous purchases over the years: The company produced Axminster carpets for: the music room of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton; Chatsworth House; Powderham Castle; Saltram House; and Warwick Castle. King George III and Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz purchased Axminster carpets and also visited the factory. In 1800, the company made a 74-by-52-foot (23 m × 16 m) carpet for Mahmud II, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, known today as the most famous Axminster Carpet of all, it was initially placed in the Topkapi Palace but then moved to the Defterdar Palace, where it became the property of Esma Sultan, the daughter of Sultan Mustapha III. To celebrate 250 years of carpet weaving in Axminster, in 2005 a commemorative rug was produced. Paraded by the company's weavers through the town, it was then blessed by the Bishop of Exeter and presented to the Earl of Devon. The carpet is now in Clarence House, the home of Prince Charles.
In July 2012,

Axminster Heritage Ltd bought the now Grade II listed former original carpet factory in which Thomas Whitty founded the company and wove the first carpets. Also in 2012, Axminster was awarded a Royal Warrant for the supply of goods and services to the Royal Household.

Even though new Axminster carpets are produced, it is the antique pieces that are quite collectible and highly sought after items.

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