The Perpendicular cruciform church suffered greatly from fire some years ago, though happily the tower escaped. A beautiful old screen and several other interesting details were entirely destroyed. The black marble tomb of Thomas Marwood commemorates a fortunate physician who cured the Earl of Essex of an illness and was rewarded by Queen Elizabeth with a house and lands near the town. On the Exeter road is St. Margaret’s Hospital, endowed by Thomas Chard, Abbot of Ford (1520), for nine old people. It was originally a lazar-house founded about 1350. The chapel was built by its later benefactor.
A curious custom is kept in Honiton Fair week, usually held the third week in July. On the first day of the Fair a crier goes about the streets with a white glove on a long wand crying:
“O yes the Fair is begun
And no man dare be arrested
Until the Fair is done.”
It is said that this strange privilege is still respected.
The high road to Axminster climbs up the long ascent of Honiton Hill (there is an easier way over the fields to the summit for pedestrians), and with beautiful views on the left keeps to the high lands almost all the way until the drop into the valley of the Yarty.
Axminster is on a low hill surronded by the softer scenery of typical Devon. The by-ways near the town are narrow flowery lanes such as are naturally suggested to one’s mind whenever the West Country is mentioned. Axminster has given its name to an industry that has not been carried on in the town for over eighty years, though “Axminster” carpets are still famous for their durability and their fine designs. The whole period during which the manufacture was carried on in the town did not cover a century. The carpets were made on hand-looms and the house, now a hospital, that was used as the factory is opposite the churchyard.
The church is said to have pre-Norman work beneath the tower. The building as it stands is mostly Perpendicular, but with certain Decorated details in the chancel and a Norman door. The sculptured parapet of the north aisle is interesting. On it are the arms of many ancient families of the county. The two effigies in the chancel are supposed to represent Gervase de Prestaller, once vicar here, and Lady Alice de Mohun. In the churchyard is a tombstone with two crutches; this is the grave of the father of Frank Buckland, the famous naturalist, who was born here in 1784.
The town suffered greatly during the Civil War. It was taken by the Royalists and used as a head-quarters during the investment of Lyme Regis. It was the resting-place of William “The Deliverer” on his way from Lyme northwards. He is said to have stayed at the “Dolphin” while it was the private residence of the Yonges.