Textile production at an industrial scale dominated the culture of the South West from medieval times to the 19th century.
Although we associate mills and the Industrial Revolution with the north of England there was also a very long history of cloth-making in the South West.
Blessed with a climate prefect for sheep and lots of winding rivers to power waterwheels Devon was perfectly situated to benefit from the British need for decent warm and waterproof clothing.
For several centuries, from the 15th Century onwards, the kersey industry was vital to the economy of Devon. It’s production made Devon one of England’s leading textile regions. It’s likely that boats collecting fabric from Devon docked in Exeter, probably bringing rags for the paper industry from Holland (see Paper Industry in Devon).
Coldharbour Mill in Uffculme is a fine example and is one of the oldest woollen mills in the UK. It has been in continuous production since 1797. It is open to the public and schools can arrange trips there.
Honiton Lace is famous worldwide and was used by Queen Victoria for her wedding dress. It is a cottage industry, meaning there were no factories to create it.
Axminster Carpets are found in stately homes the world over, and carpet many Royal Palaces. Originally started in 1755 by Thomas Whitty, the factory reopened in Axminster in 1937 and have been making quality carpets there ever since.