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Ann Caton-Woodville visits the home of British Carpets

It's a fact, we take so much for granted especially in our everyday surroundings. Heat, light, comfort and a decorative ambience are, more-or-less, always there. The ease with which we can furnish our homes belies the decades of research, flair and undoubted ingenuity that results in the products that are on offer to us in every high street.

Royal Axminster in 100% British Wool.
The new Magnificat design inspired by William Morris

Recently, I read about the origins of carpet manufacturing in England and so I readily accepted an invitation to visit Axminster Carpets in Devon to find out at first hand what goes into today's top quality carpets.

The town gave its name to this particular type of carpet construction way back in 1755 when Thomas Whitty started his manufacturing company to supply the gentry with hand knotted carpets of a quality and at a price which even the imported rugs from the middle east could not compete. Whitty supplied the Brighton Pavilion, Carlton House and even the Sultan of Turkey with superb examples of carpet maker's craft. Today, the tradition is carried on with Axminster Carpets from Devon gracing many prestigious buildings around the world, including sumptuous hotels such as Number One Nob Hill in San Francisco, Casinos along the French Riviera, the Royal Albert Hall in London and the recently refurbished Windsor Castle.


Royal Clovelly Symphony meeting today's fashion for matching borders. Axminsters from Axminster in 100% British Wool.


But what is it that attracts the most discerning contract carpet specifiers as well as those of us that merely want the best for our home?

Robin Oakes, the Sales and Marketing Director of Axminster, proffers three reasons: "Quality, we use nothing but the very best 100% British Wool fleece in our yarn blends and we ensure that, as we undertake all the processes from spinning to carpet making, we can exercise the most thorough quality control. We constantly invest in the latest computer aided equipment and this means we can achieve faster production very economically without sacrificing anything in the way of quality, it ensures the customer gets excellent value for money.

Branscombe in 100% British Wool. New Diamond and Saphire available in 12 colourways.

Finally, we have a very experienced design team who spend an inordinate amount of time researching exactly what our customers demand in terms of design and styling and who are constantly evaluating and anticipating furnishing trends."

Every Axminster carpet starts in the company's own spinning mill down near Buckfast Abbey where Axminster wool buyers select the finest grade British Wool. British Wool is specified for its strength and hard wearing properties and is blended with wool from Axminster's own flock of Drysdale sheep reared for whiteness and resilience. The blend is then washed and spun into yarns ready for dying and weaving into carpet.

The advantage of the Axminster weave is the large number of colours that can be used in intricate designs without wasting yarn. This results in patterns of great depth and subtlety and Axminster's design team have been responsible for the company winning many awards from leading retail groups for their best selling ranges.

As anyone at Axminster is quick to point out, a patterned carpet in British Wool is the most practical flooring choice available today, it rarely shows spots, spills and everyday wear and is specified for many public buildings for these reasons as well as for safety and comfort. Wool resists cigarette burns and does not readily support combustion plus, it is less prone to static and can tolerate a high moisture content without feeling wet. It is an all round carpet fibre and is Axminster Carpet's first choice, making the company leading manufacturer of 100% woven wool carpets in the UK.

Axminster Carpets have long enjoyed a reputation for design excellence but it was with unabashed pride that they showed me the very latest range of designs. And they have every reason to be pleased. The Royal Axminster has been inspired by the great William Morris, who in 1862 founded his own firm for the manufacture of furniture, wallpaper and fabrics. The Morris influence underpinned the Arts and crafts movement, which segued into the Art Nouveau style, all of which are undergoing a popular and growing revival. It looks like Axminster Carpets are still ahead of the trends.

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