Axminster, Devon Family History Guide

Axminster is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Devon. Kilmington and Membury are chapelries of Axminster.

The parish includes the tythings of Abbey, Shapwick, Smallridge, Trill, Uphay, West Water, Weycroft, and Wyke or Week, in Devon, and the tything of Beerhall in Dorset.

Parish church:

Parish registers begin: 1559

Nonconformists include: Independent/Congregational, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Society of Friends/Quaker, and Wesleyan Methodist.

Parishes adjacent to Axminster

  • Shute
  • Musbury
  • Membury
  • Kilmington
  • Chardstock All Saints
  • Stockland with Dalwood
  • Monkton Wyld
  • Axmouth
  • Combe Pyne
  • Uplyme
  • Hawkchurch

Historical Descriptions


The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

AXMINSTER, a town, a subdistrict, a hundred, and a district, in Devon; and a parish partly also in Dorset. The town stands on a rising ground, adjacent to the river Axe, above the influx of the Yarty, and contiguous to the Yeovil and Exeter railway, 25 miles E by N of Exeter. It has a station on the railway; which serves also for Lyme-Regis. It dates from a period prior to the Roman invasion; it was called by the Anglo-Saxons Brunenburgh, and gave that name to the battlefield of Athelstan's famous victory, in 937, over the Danes, the Scotch, and the Irish; and it took the name of Axminster from a great church or minster, for seven priests,. said to have been founded at it by Athelstan, in commemoration of his victory. A party of the Royal troops were stationed in it in 1644; and fought an action, in its neighbourhood, with the Parliamentarians. The Prince of Orange abode some days in it, in 1689, on his way to London. Its streets are irregularly formed, but spacious A central place in it, called Trinity-square, was laid out after a great fire in 1834. The parish church is a large edifice of nave, aisles, and chancel, with massive central tower; consists variously of ancient parts and modern renovations, and perhaps includes some portion of Athelstan's minster; possesses a fine Norman doorway, and displays elsewhere the three styles of pointed architecture, early English, decorated, and perpendicular; and contains two monumental effigies, a number of armorial shields, and a painting of the twelve apostles. A new cemetery is about ½ mile distant, on the Chard road. There are chapels for independents, Wesleyans and Roman Catholics; likewise a national school, and a free education charity. The workhouse was erected in 1836, at a cost of £7,000; and afterwards enlarged at a further cost of £2,500. The town has a head post office, two banking offices, and three chief inns; and is a seat of petty sessions, and of county courts. Markets are held on Thursdays and Saturdays; and fairs, on the Tuesday after 25 April, the Tuesday after 24 June, and the Wednesday after 10 Oct. A manufacture of famous carpets, rivalling those from Turkey, was begun in 1755, but came to an end in 1835; and silk-throwing then was tried. The environs of the town are pleasant; the views in the vicinity, extensive and beautiful; and all the approaches, good and wide. A tunnel on the road from Charmouth, opened in 1832, pierces one of the steepest hills between London and Exeter, and is about 70 yards long, and of sufficient capacity to permit two of the largest stage-waggons to pass each other. A bill was introduced in 1860 for an Axminster, Seaton, and Beer Junction railway, with bridge over the Axe.

The parish includes the tythings of Abbey, Shapwick, Smallridge, Trill, Uphay, West Water, Weycroft, and Wyke or Week, in Devon, and the tything of Beerhall in Dorset. Acres, 7,637. Real property, £16,253. Pop., 2,918. Houses, 547. The manor belonged to the Crown till after the Norman conquest; was given by King John to Lord Brewer; passed to Lord Reginald de Mohun, who gave it to the abbey of Newenham; went, at the dissolution, to the Duke of Norfolk; and was sold, in the time of James I., to Lord Petre. The rest of the landed property is subdivided. The living is a vicarage, united with the curacies of Kilmington and Membury, in the diocese of Exeter. Value, £975. Patrons, the Reps. of Dean Conybeare. Dr. Buckland, the famous geologist, was a native. The subdistrict comprises 5 parishes. Acres, 19,219. Pop., 5,537. Houses, 1,098. The hundred contains thirteen parishes, and an extra-parochial tract. Acres, 48,699. Pop., 10,823. Houses, 2,178. The district comprehends the subdistrict of Axminster, containing the parishes of Axminster, Kilmington, Comb pyne, Thorncombe, and Hawkchurch, the two last electotally in Dorset; the subdistrict of Lyme, containing the parishes of Uplyme, Charmouth, and Lyme-Regis, the two last electorally in Dorset; the subdistrict of Chardstock, containing the parishes of Membury, Stock land, Dalwood, and Chardstock, the last electorally in Dorset; and the subdistrict of Colyton, containing the parishes of Colyton, Shute, Musbury, Axmouth, and Seaton, and the extra-parochial tract of Roosdown. Acres, 61,738. Poor-rates in 1866, £12,875. Pop. in 1861, 19,758. Houses, 3,997. Marriages in 1866, 123; births, 605, of which 31 were illegitimate; deaths, 427, of which 119 were at ages under 5-years, and 17 at ages above 85 years. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60,1,370; births, 5,729; deaths, 3,921. The places of worship in 1851 were 20 of the Church of England, with 8,630 sittings; 8 of Independents, with 2,255 s.: 4 of Baptists, with 900 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 195 s.; 7 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 1,064 s.; 3 of Bible Christians, with 170 s.; and 2 of Roman Catholics, with 96 s. The schools were 23 public day schools, with 1,397 scholars; 43 private day schools, with 884 s.; 32 Sunday schools, with 2,551 s.; and 2 evening schools for adults, with 21 s.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

Leonard's Gazetteer of England and Wales 1850

Axminster, 147 miles S.W. London. Mrkt., Sat. P. 2860

Source: Leonard's Gazetteer of England and Wales; Second Edition; C. W. Leonard, London; 1850


The National Gazetteer 1868

ABBEY, a tythg. in the par. and hund. of Axminster, in the co. of Devon. It is not far from the town of Axminster.

Source: The National Gazetteer: a Topographical Dictionary of the British Islands compiled from the latest and best sources and illustrated with a complete county atlas and numerous maps. Vol. 1. Virtue & Co. London. 1868.

Lewis Topographical Dictionary of England 1845

Abbey, a tything, in the parish, union, and hundred of Axminster, Honiton and S. divisions of Devon; containing 76 inhabitants.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis Fifth Edition Published London; by S. Lewis and Co., 13, Finsbury Place, South. M. DCCC. XLV.


Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales Circa 1870

Shapwick, a tything in Axminster parish, Devon; near Axminster.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

Parish Records

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Below is a list of people that were declared bankrupt between 1820 and 1843 extracted from The Bankrupt Directory; George Elwick; London; Simpkin, Marshall and Co.; 1843.

Anning Dorothy, Axminster, Devonshire, grocer, Oct. 18, 1823.

Arnold Charles, Axminster, Devon, surgeon and apothecary, Feb. 11, 1823.

Cawley Thomas Charles, Axminster, Devonshire, ironmonger, Nov. 12, 1830.

Dawe Francis; &. Thos. Guppy; Axminster, Devonshire, millers, Nov. 5, 1830.

Whitty Samuel Ramson, Axminster, Devonshire, carpet manufact., Dec. 25,1835.

Historical Newspapers

Western Morning News

Western Times

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette

North Devon Journal

Express and Echo


Vision of Britain historical maps


  • County: Devon
  • Civil Registration District: Axminster
  • Probate Court: Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Exeter
  • Diocese: Exeter
  • Rural Deanery: Honiton
  • Poor Law Union: Axminster
  • Hundred: Axminster
  • Province: Canterbury