New book details Axminster’s history

PUBLISHED: 08:59 20 June 2020

Axminster's Trinity Square in bygone years.

Axminster's Trinity Square in bygone years.


A major new book has been published detailing events during the past three centuries which helped to shape the way Axminster is today.

David Knapman's new book on the history of Axminster over three centuriesDavid Knapman's new book on the history of Axminster over three centuries

Written by heritage centre volunteer David Knapman its ten chapters, each cover 30 years - roughly equivalent to the adult life of a generation.

In its 480 pages ‘Unsteady Progress A History of Axminster from 1701 to 2000’ - includes many stories which never made it into earlier histories of the town.

Throughout the book David puts what was happening in Axminster into a wider context, with the aim of explaining how and why the town is the way it is today, and he provides details on all of his sources, enabling anyone to follow up on stories and information which particularly interest them.

The author draws heavily on contemporary sources such as newspapers, many of which were either not available to earlier authors, or much harder to search. Use is also made of the sterling work of groups such as Friends of Devon Archives, whose

county-wide researches greatly enhance our understanding of life in Devon in the 18th century.

Throughout the book attention is paid not just to how Axminster was faring, but also to the social and economic progress being made by other nearby towns, and in particular Honiton, Chard and Bridport.

The book’s official launch was postponed because of the coronavirus lockdown.

When the heritage centre re-opens copies will be on sale there at £16.50, but in the meantime David is happy to arrange deliveries to Axminster residents, or collections for anyone who visits Axminster from time to time. Payment can be either in cash or as a cheque payable to Axminster Heritage. Delivery by post is also possible.

To arrange to buy a copy contact him on Email via

* David Knapman was born and brought up a mile or so outside Axminster, on the dairy farm which his grandparents had bought in 1913. After graduating from the University of Reading he worked in the agricultural and environmental industries.

Despite spending some of his working life overseas he was a regular visitor to Axminster. His interest in social and economic history grew out of research which he did into his family’s history, much of which centred on Devon. In 2014, soon after he retired, he moved back to Axminster. Since then he has taken an active interest in the town and its history, including volunteering at the Axminster Heritage Centre.

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