Carpet founder portrait discovered in Canada

The portrait of Thomas Whitty discovered in Canada

The portrait of Thomas Whitty discovered in Canada - Credit: Archant

Only known painting of Thomas Whitty is uncovered in a Vancouver home

The only known portrait of Axminster Carpets’ founder Thomas Whitty has been discovered - some 4,000 miles away in Canada.

The picture of the man who founded the world famous company, in 1755, hangs in the Vancouver home of his great, great, great, great, great grandson, Peter Bradshaw.

A copy of it has now been sent to Axminster Heritage Ltd which operates in the building where Whitty set up his original carpet factory.

Mr Bradshaw and his wife Maggie visited Axminster in 2005 to take part in the celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of the making of the first Axminster carpet.


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When they returned home they set about examining documents that had been handed down through their family. They used them to try and establish who had hand-written on a piece of paper stuck to the back of the pastel portrait the words “Grandma Devenish’s Grandfather, Father’s side”.

From their investigations they concluded that the portrait was indeed almost certainly that of Thomas Whitty.

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Mr Bradshaw said: “Looking at the family tree, the inscription appears to refer to Grandma Devenish - Mary Devenish (née Whitty) - who was married to Samuel Devenish and Grandfather Father’s side is Thomas Whitty (IV) 1716 – 1792, of Axminster, as he is referred to in the family tree, the founder of Axminster Carpets.”

John Church, Chairman of Axminster Heritage said: “This is very exciting news. Before the 250th anniversary celebrations we scoured the archives, including the National Portrait Gallery, to try and trace a picture of the town’s famous son but the only record was that of a silhouette. We were fortunate to have a talented artist living locally and he decided to paint a portrait of Thomas Whitty based on the silhouette and historical records of him which provide glimpses of his character.

“Here at last is a real picture of the founder of the Axminster carpet industry, whose ingenuity made the name of our town world famous.”

The annual general meeting of Axminster Heritage Ltd will be held on Tuesday, November 25, in Thomas Whitty House at 6pm. Copies of the Bradshaw family history documents as well as the two pictures of Thomas Whitty will be on show.

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