East Devon is steeped in history, and no more so than Honiton. Once described as the most beautiful landscape in the world, by Daniel Defoe in 1724, little has changed our town’s stunning scenery in the years since. We’re diving into the past and learning all about Honiton’s historic moments and exports.
Possibly one of the biggest exports is Honiton Lace. As early as 1620, Honiton was noted for its lace that was ‘much in request’. The characteristic sprig applique is said to be influenced by Honiton and Devon’s bountiful countryside, which I’m sure you agree, is beautiful enough to inspire anyone! Lace continued to remain popular throughout the 18th & early 19th centuries, however, it became a highly desirable commodity during the Victorian Era.
Handmade goods became popular throughout Britain, including an interest in the imperfect. Many wanted the authentic and the unique, which represented the ‘real beauty of true art objects’.
Honiton Lace reached the height of popularity thanks to it’s royal influence. Perhaps it’s greatest claim to fame was the use of Honiton Lace in Queen Victoria’s wedding dress. Four hundred workers spent over three months creating the stunning gown which was trimmed with our local lace. Upon Victoria’s birthday Jubilee, three hundred workers celebrated by creating a special flounce to mark the occasion.
Queen Alexandra was also known to promote British handiwork, including Honiton Lace. It was even requested that at Edward VII’s coronation that all ladies wear goods originating from Britain, which brought in many orders, helping both with the lace’s popularity and the economy.
When it came to the late nineteenth century, popularity began to take a downturn, when machine-made goods became more readily available and reliable.
A lesser known export was that of Honiton Pottery. Dating back to 1881, little is known about the early days until 1918, when Charles Collard set up his shop in the High Street. Production increased steadily, reaching it’s peak in the 1930s. The wares bore a strong resemblance to Poole pottery, which were decorated over a white slip which was already glazed. The company was later sold in 1947, after Collard’s sight began to fail and later ceased trading completely in 1997.