Posted: 08.06.20 at 15:25 by Philip Evans
Axminster Heritage Centre, situated in the old Thomas Whitty carpet factory in Silver Street, was due to begin its summer season shortly before the coronavirus broke out.
The centre was planning a range of activities to accompany a new temporary exhibition which would have included bringing in several sheep to be sheared in the courtyard. But because of lockdown, this has not been possible.
Museum Manager Nigel Sadler, who has been in post for 18 months, and a small team of volunteers have instead been working from home to come up with new and entertaining ways to continue to engage with with all the genre supporters.
They made the exciting decision to start a YouTube channel and are hoping to add content on a regular basis – beginning with the films and presentations on display at the Heritage Centre.
Together with his son Fred, an expert Lego builder, Mr Sadler has created an Axminster Lego City Museum
Mr Sadler said: “We are continuing to explore new ways of creating interesting and fun content and to this end I have been busy learning how to use some new software.
“The result of this can be seen here on our YouTube channel. My son and I have been working together on this project and his skills as a Lego Master Builder have been invaluable.”
This project has also led to the formation of a new idea.
Mr Sadler explained: “If you live in Axminster, or one of the surrounding villages, no matter your age, please tell us what you collect and if possible, send us photographs to share showing you with your collection and some information on how and why you collect.
“You never know, this might give us ideas for temporary displays at the Axminster Heritage Centre for when we reopen.”
The heritage Centre, essentially, tells the story of Axminster.
Visitors to the centre are invited to learn what has made Axminster and the surrounding area what it is today, including the chance to explore Axminster, its origins in the Bronze and Stone Ages, then as a crossroads on the Roman Fosse Way.
It is also possible to learn about the abbey built at Newenham by the Cistercian monks after they were given the Manor of Axminster in 1246, and discover how Axminster became a busy agricultural market town, developing a strong rural economy over many years.
Those interested in carpet making, for which Axminster is world famous, can see how Thomas Whitty started making weaving in the town in 1755, whilst William Harry Dutfield established the modern factory in 1937.
On show is a beautiful 1769 Whitty carpet and an original 18th century loom used by Whitty alongside a 1930s Crabtree loom used in the Axminster Carpets factory. Occasionally the centre runs the Crabtree loom which is fully working
The town has attracted all sorts of craftsmen and women, a foundry, two brush factories, both famous for their toothbrushes.
A series of precision engineering companies have flourished and examples of some of their innovative products are on display.
The exhibition also highlights how individuals like Thomas Whitty and William Buckland put Axminster on the map. Others - James Davidson and George Pulman in particular - recorded Axminster’s history, and Emily Conybeare helped the sick of the town.
An Axminster Information Point is also located inside the centre.
No date has yet to be confirmed for when the centre might open its doors to the public again. The executive committee will be meeting shortly to discuss when the centre can re-open but this will depend greatly on government advice.
Board of Trustees chairman, Dr John Church said: “I see no reason why we should not open and allow three or four people in at a time, but some of our stewards are getting on a bit so we shall have to follow advice.”