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Axminster, Devon (England)

Last modified: 2016-09-27 by rob raeside
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[Flag of Axminster, Devon] image by Ivan Sache, 23 August 2016
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Description of the Flag

The town of Axminster (5,761 inhabitants in 2011), self-styled the "Gateway to the Jurassic Coast", is located in East Devon, 50 km from Exeter.

With its origins dating back to Celtic times of 300 BC, Axminster lies on two major Roman roads: the Fosse Way from Lincoln to Seaton, and the Dorchester to Exeter road but the Saxons settled here in the 7th century and great examples of ancient architecture are dotted in around the town. Axminster was recorded in the late 9th century as "Ascanmynster" and then in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Aixeministra": The name means "monastery, or large church by the River Axe" and is a mixture of languages; the river name Axe has Celtic origins, and mynster is an Old English word. There has been a church on the site since the 8th century and in 786 the body of Cynhard the Atheling was brought here for burial, and a tradition survives that King Athelstan founded a college of priests and endowed the church in 937. Of Saxon remains, however, there are no clear traces. The present church dates from 13th century.

Whilst famously lending its name to a particular weave of carpet, the history of the town is very much linked to the carpet industry. Started by Thomas Whitty, at Court House near the church in 1755, the completion of the early hand tufted carpets was marked by a peal of bells from the parish church as it took a great amount of time and
labour to complete them. Axminster Carpets are still the town's most famous export in modern times. King George III visited Axminster in 1789 after hearing about the carpets. In 1826 the building burnt down and was rebuilt as we see it today. The factory went bankrupt shortly after, becoming a Court Room and then the Towns Hospital. Axminster did not start making carpets again until 1937 on its present site at the bottom of Woodmead Road.

The Old Brush Works was built in the 18th century to take advantage of the River Axe. The building was used for wool storage, a flax workshop and a rope factory before the building was sold to Mr Coates as a brush factory. It is currently a feather factory and has prepared feathers for the Queen Mother as well as military apparel: Jaffe et fils makers of military plumes.

Quotes from the website of the Axminster Chamber of Commerce and Industry:

The flag of Axminster is celestial blue with the town crest in the center. The motto "Steadfast and Faithful" was omitted from the scroll placed beneath the shield because it would be an unreadable mirror image on one side.
Three copies of the flag were offered by local resident Andrew Wragg, to be flown outside The Guildhall, home of the Town Council since 1964. The flag was unfurled for the first time on 18 August 2016. - Midweek Herald, 19 August 2016

The arms, officially granted on 10 November 1945, are described as follows:

Arms: Per saltire Gules and Azure an Orb between in fesse two Battle Axes erect the blades inwards and in base a Shuttle all Or.
Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours upon a Mount Vert a Minster proper.

The field and orb are from the arms attributed to King Athelstan, and the battle-axes refer to the Battle of Brunanburgh in 938, after which Athelstan endowed the Church at Axminster with lands so that prayers might be offered up for the souls of his earls who had been slain. The axes are also a play on the name. The shuttle refers to the carpets which take their name from the town where they have been made since 1755. The crest symbolises the ancient minster round which the town grew up.

Quotes from G. Briggs, Civic and corporate heraldry (1971) - Heraldry of the world website
Ivan Sache, 23 August 2016