Honiton  in South East Devon
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Broadhembury Church - on the A373, between Honiton and Cullompton.
River Otter near Honiton
The River Otter

Tourist Information CentreHoniton Tourist Information Centre
Lace Walk Car Park
Honiton EX14 8LT
Tel/Fax: 01404 43716

The East Devon market town of Honiton, has a great deal to offer its many visitors, - a fascinating history, a lively atmosphere and miles of country walks for ramblers, being just a few of the many delights of the town. For centuries Honiton has been renowned for lace, pottery and glove making, and although these time honoured crafts are no longer carried out to their former extent, Honiton has numerous specialist shops dedicated to both lace and pottery.

In more recent years, the town has also become the main centre in the West Country for antiques and antiquarian books. Honiton is a magnet for antique dealers and bargain hunters from all over the world, who come to browse in the 30 or so establishments, or to visit one of the regular auctions.

Strategically situated in South-East Devon, Honiton, is one of the traditional gateways into the county of Devonshire, making it an excellent base for people wishing to visit or to tour East Devon.

Honiton is within easy reach of both of the West Country's National Parks - Dartmoor and Exmoor, as well as being close to Exeter - the ancient capital of the South West. Vast tracts of the area surrounding Honiton are designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty and the town's location, near to the River Otter, provides the visitor with an abundance of country walks and footpaths to explore.

During the 18th century, fires destroyed many of Honiton's older buildings. The re-building program created much of what we see today - a unique town, which is still largely 18th century in character. Honiton is both an attractive and prosperous town with an excellent shopping centre, holding twice-weekly street markets. It is twinned with Gronau-Leine in Germany and Mezidon-Canon in France, with regular exchange visits taking place between local schools and organisations.

Honiton Lace

Lace making was for hundreds of years, the main industry of the town. Honiton had a large population of lace-makers - women who would sit outside their houses using the bright sunlight to weave highly complicated and delicate pieces.

Lace making was an extremely labour intensive craft, with even the smallest piece requiring a high degree of skill and precision to make. Eventually, machine made lace products became a cheaper alternative - causing Honiton's lace making industry to go into a decline.

In 1841, lace makers from the Honiton area were commisioned to supply lace for Queen Victoria's wedding dress. The Queen was so impressed by the quality of the work, so she commisioned a second piece as a christening robe of her eldest son, later to be King Edward VII. This delicately woven lace gown is still in use today.

Historically, Honiton was one of the centres for the West Country's medieval cloth trade, but over time, the town became famous as a centre for lace - due to the locally manufactured lace products being shipped from the town. The town's Allhallow's Museum, holds the World's principal collection of Honiton Lace and there are many shops in the town, specialising in lace and pottery, as well as antiques for which Honiton is now renowned.

The gentle, fertile agricultural land around Honiton has been inhabited since Neolithic times. The massive hillfort of Hembury Castle nearby, originated in the Neolithic period and was re-occupied and re-fortified during the Iron Age. The name of the town is Anglo Saxon and probably derives from the farm or settlement ('ton') of somebody called 'Huna'.

Daniel Defoe visited the town, in the 1720's, saying of the town that it was 'large and beautiful...very populous and well built'. There are a still a few older buildingswhich survived the fire in the 18th century. There is the 17th century Marwood House, built by John Marwood, whose father, Thomas, was physician to Elizabeth the First, and the already mentioned, Allhallows Museum, in the High Street, once a 13th century chapel that later became a schoolroom this is the oldest building in the town.

St Michael's, the Parish Church of Honiton, sits on a small hill above the town. The church was rebuilt in 1911 after a fire. The building is spacious and there are good views from the churchyard. In the centre of the town is St Paul's Church, built in the mid 19th century by the Devon architect Charles Fowler, who was responsible the old Covent Garden Market in London, the gatehouse of nearby Powderham Castle, Totnes Bridge, and old county lunatic asylum at Exminster .

Agriculture is Honiton's main industry today. The town stands in an area of rich farmland, watered by the river Otter with steep sided-hills that rise between the town and the sea. Many narrow winding lanes wind their way from Honiton, through the local countryside; leading to villages that provide tourists with constant sources of interest and delight. Honiton with an extensive selection of restaurants, cafes and wide choice of accommodation from luxury hotels, guest houses and farmhouses to self catering cottages, is the ideal base for a visit to this region, with something to suit all tastes.

Lace Making

An example of Honiton Lace from 1750The Allhallows Museum in Honiton features displays of Honiton lace making at its best. Early examples can be viewed, showing the overall quality of the craftwork, which is comparable to the Flemish laces in both their design and quality of finish.

Although, Honiton is known as being a lace making town, in reality, there is no evidence of any of the products actually being made in the town. Honiton was the centre of trading, but the lace-making itself was multi-centred and as with all products of this nature, their actual place of manufacture is often subject to question. The lace makers of the area, were not organized as a group, they were mostly single workers making lace from their cottages, far from any major market and worked in a country that was not that fashion conscious. The products were brought to Honiton as a centre for dispatch - to the far away markets. There was no special group to oversee the quality of work and design and so short cuts were developed and inferior quality lace began to emerge, leading to a downward slide.

In contrast, the Flemish lace makers of the time were based in a major city. The designs were created by highly trained designers who studied at government run colleges and maintained strong links to the capital, Paris and the French Courts. Rather than being an isolated group dispersed over a large area, they were a nuclear community producing high quality products; whose quality was rigourously controlled and enforced.

In the early 19th century there was a decline in the industry and although Queens Adelaide ,Victoria, Alexandra and Mary all tried to support production of local lace, through patronage. During the second half of the century, the lace sprigs or motifs were being appliqued on to machine made net. This reduced to labour needed to produce products and some of the cost. The technique made the decorating of veils, fichus collars etc. much more of an economical proposition, but never brought the industry back to its previous high point.

Accommodation in HonitonAccommodation in Honiton
Self-catering Accommodation
Bed and Breakfast Accommodation
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Attractions

Honiton Festival - An annual event, held between May 6th and May 20th. The Honiton Festival features many musical exhibitions by both local artists and internationally known names. Visual Arts Exhibitions are also featured in many shops along the high street.

Honiton Agricultural Show - Held annually, this is one of the largest and best supported one-day shows in the country with Cattle, Sheep, Horse and Goat classes as well as Trade Exhibitors.

Honiton and District Carnival - an annual event with many floats from the surrounding area, all with impressive displays of light and colour. The event is held over a two week period, reaching its peak with the Grand Evening Carnival Procession - An evening to be enjoyed by all the family.

Allhallow's Museum of Lace and Antiquities - Open from April to October and situated in the towns oldest building. the museum contains numerous items of local interest and history, including the most comprehensive collection of the famous Honiton lace.

 

 
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