In 1841, lace makers from the area were commissioned to supply the lace for Queen Victoria’s wedding dress. The Queen was so impressed by the quality of the work that she commissioned the christening robe of her eldest son, later King Edward VII. The delicate lace gown is still in use today.
Honiton has a public swimming pool, sports centre, golf course, famous lace museum and on the third Thursday of each month there is a Farmers market. Every Tuesday and Saturday, Honiton has a street market on the high street. Historic thatched villages such as Broadhembury and Gittisham, both just 3 miles away.
This attractive town is famous worldwide for its intricate finely crafted bobbin lace traditionally used in royal items such as Queen Victoria's wedding dress, and more recently in Prince George's christening gown. A comprehensive Honiton Lace collection can be viewed at charming Allhallows Museum which also holds lace-making demonstrations in summer.
For hundreds of years, lace making was the main industry of the town. Women would sit outside their homes to weaving highly complicated and delicate pieces in the bright sunlight. Lace making was a labour intensive craft, as to make even the smallest piece required a high degree of skill and precision. Eventually, machine made lace products became a cheaper alternative causing a decline in the local industry.
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Honiton was an important market town for this farming area but when Flemish immigrants arrived in the 16th century, they brought a new skill to Honiton - lacemaking.
Honiton was the centre of trading, but lace making itself was multi-centred. The lace makers were mostly women working from their cottages, far from any market. Honiton was a centre for dispatch to far away markets. There was no specific body to oversee the quality of work and design and consequently inferior quality lace began to emerge, leading to a downward slide. This was accentuated by competition from the strictly regulated Flemish lace makers of the time.
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In 1747 and 1765, two fires destroyed many of the buildings, and those that exist today are mainly of Georgian origin, built to replace the older cottages.
In the centre of Honiton is the Romanesque St Paul's Church, built in 1837. Unfortunately its location required the demolition of part of the older Allhallows Chapel.
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During the 18th century, fires destroyed many of the older buildings in Honiton. Consequently much of what we see today was built at that time. The town is attractive and prosperous with an excellent shopping centre, holding twice-weekly street markets.
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The local shops, supermarkets and services are further out of town along with schools and the sports centre.
Running 155km from Exmouth in Devon to Studland in Dorset is the Dorset and East Devon Coast World...
For a small donation to this years chosen charity (Devon Freewheeers), you can borrow kits for fossil hunting, bat listening and bugs safari. Reserving an Educational Activity Kit can be done on the booking page for extras. (please note that bat listening is only available between April and October).
Honiton is one of the traditional gateways into Devon, providing an excellent base for people wishing to explore the county. It is within easy reach of Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, and close to Exeter, the ancient capital of Devon. Much of the countryside surrounding Honiton contains areas designated as of outstanding natural beauty.
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From the early 19th century there was a decline in the industry although the Royal family tried to support production of local lace through patronage. During the second half of the century, lace motifs were appliquéd onto machine-made net. This reduced the cost of labour and made the decorating of veils and so on a much more economical proposition. However the industry never returned to its previous high point.
This fine lace was hand made and samples can still be found in the area's antique shops and gift shops. Such was the quality of Honiton lace that Queen Victoria used it in her wedding dress.
When Daniel Defoe visited the town in the early 18th century, he described it as large and beautiful. A few buildings survived the fire in the 18th century, including 17th century Marwood House, built by John Marwood, son of the physician to Elizabeth I, and the previously mentioned Allhallows Museum. The latter building, in the High Street, was once a 13th century chapel and later became a schoolroom. It is the oldest building in the town.
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Things to do in Honiton
A lovely, well stocked garden centre with restaurant. Something to do...…
Below are some useful ideas for you to do whilst on your holiday in Devon. There are also many public footpaths, bridleways, coastal paths and cycle routes. Many circular walks start in village centres of the surrounding area.
Visit the largest sanctuary for donkeys in the world at Sidmouth in Devon. Visitors are free to...
Dartmoor National Park is within easy reach of Honiton, and is ideal for walkers and mountain bikers.
Enjoy the natural historical gardens and fantasy woodland which surround the ancestral home of the...
The gallery is in a Georgian town house and was the...…
Dating from the Iron Age, this hillfort with its striking ramparts...…
Award-winning public art gallery featuring contemporary art exhibitions and major national touring...
Spectacular Millennium Celebration Gardens, passenger carrying miniature railway with steam and...
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Some of Honiton's oldest buildings of note, which survived the 18th century fires, are Marwood House built in 1619, and the Manor House, once a coaching inn. Honiton Garage building dates back to 1700.
Honiton’s main industry today is agriculture. The rich farmland is watered by the River Otter. Steep sided hills rise between the town and the sea and narrow lanes wind their way from Honiton through the local countryside. There are many attractive villages in the area.
The Hot Pennies ceremony is still celebrated in honor of a 12th century tradition. The rich gentry would throw pennies from their windows to peasants in the street below, however they first heated the coins in the fire so they could result in nasty burns. Nonetheless, the practice attracted visitors from far and wide to the town and the fair that then took place.
From the 1960s onwards, Honiton expanded considerably with new homes being built south of the railway line which connects Exeter and London Waterloo. However, it has now reached the border of the Blackhill Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which restricts new development.
Visit the Allhallows Museum of Lace and Local Antiquities to see samples of fine Honiton lace. It is located in the 13th century Allhallows Chapel, the oldest building in the town.