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An Axminster carpet is a type of pile carpet named for Axminster, a town in Southwest England which continues to produce carpets today. These carpets are made distinctive by their bright colors, and they are traditionally made from wool. Although modern Axminsters are machine-woven, they often retain a handmade look, making them popular for people who want the look and feel of handmade carpets without the significant expense. Some people also associate Axminster with quality, since it has been a renowned name in carpet making for centuries.
The history of the Axminster carpet started in 1755, when Thomas Whitty opened a carpet manufacturing company in the town of Axminster. The development of carpet manufacture in England during this period was enabled by laws which were designed to promote locally produced textiles, out of concern that foreign textiles were dominating the market. These early carpets were handmade, and they quickly became very popular among the wealthy; several extant 18th century examples of Axminster carpets can be seen on display today.
Over time, many imitators opened up their own carpet manufacturing companies, and for a brief period, Axminster carpets weren't even manufactured in their hometown. In the 1930s, carpet manufacture in Axminster was revived, thanks to the efforts of a British man named Harry Dutfield. Dutfield modernized the manufacturing process, developing carpet looms which could create a range of patterns at a fraction of the cost of handmade carpets.
A typical Axminster carpet has a stiff backing, often made from linen, with a soft wool pile. The carpets are sometimes manufactured as throw rugs or standalone pieces, and in other instances they are designed to work as area carpeting or runners, with patterns which can be trimmed to fit in specific spaces. It is potentially possible to order a custom Axminster carpet which is woven in a specific size and/or design; such carpets can be decorated with family crests and other thematic elements.
Many carpet supply stores sell Axminster carpet, or are capable of ordering it for people who want it. Axminster Carpets, Ltd. is also happy to ship carpeting or provide information to curious consumers. An Axminster carpet is certainly an option to consider if you are seeking a durable, stain resistant carpet, although you may want to be aware that “Axminster” is not necessarily a protected term, so the quality of an “Axminster carpet” can vary widely.