Axminster Rugs & Carpets

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View our current selection of antique Axminster carpets from England below:

The Iconic Antique English Axminster Carpets and Rugs

What are the Antique English Axminster Carpets?

Axminster carpets have a rich history and are known for their high quality and intricate designs. The term “Axminster” refers to a type of carpet that originated in the town of Axminster in Devon, England. The technique was developed by Thomas Whitty in 1755.

However, it’s important to note that while the term “Antique English Axminster Carpets” might be used colloquially, the Axminster technique itself is more broadly associated with a style of carpet rather than a specific brand or category of antique carpets.

Here are some key characteristics of Axminster carpets:

  • Quality and Craftsmanship: Axminster carpets are known for their superior quality and craftsmanship. The weaving technique involves weaving the pile and backing together, which enhances durability.
  • Intricate Designs: One of the distinctive features of Axminster carpets is the intricate and detailed designs. These carpets often feature elaborate patterns and vibrant colors.
  • Wool Material: Traditional Axminster carpets are made from high-quality wool, which contributes to their durability and luxurious feel.
  • Historical Significance: Axminster carpets have a long history and are considered a part of the rich tradition of British carpet making. They were originally made for aristocratic homes and have been popular for centuries.

When referring to “Antique English Axminster Carpets,” it generally implies vintage or antique carpets produced in the Axminster style in England. These carpets might vary in terms of age, design, and condition, but they share the commonality of being made using the Axminster weaving technique. Collectors and enthusiasts often appreciate these antique Axminster carpets for their historical significance and craftsmanship.

More about the antique Axminster rugs

Antique Axminster rugs and carpets represent a unique style of rug. While most antique rug styles were developed in the Oriental world, the Axminster style is an excellent example of a style that was developed in the Western World – specifically, in England. Axminster rugs are a luxurious nineteenth-century English counterpart to the great Neo-classical designs of French Aubusson rugs and Savonnerie carpets.

They share the same taste for monumental frames and cartouches filled with naturalistic floral detail in the European tradition, along with a tendency toward softer, pastel coloration. Some Axminster carpets, however, also began to respond to the qualities of Oriental rug design once the latter had reclaimed their position in the European market during the later nineteenth century. But even Axminster rugs of this kind preserve a distinctly European taste for soft coloration and realistic floral motives.

Antique English Axminster carpets and rugs are noteworthy for the wide range of aesthetics and styles that they express. While some examples are certainly aesthetically consistent with the elaborate Neoclassical carpets of France, it is the exceptional pieces that express more of an Oriental style that give such range to the style. Indeed, some antique Axminster rugs and carpets beautifully incorporate Persian and Turkish elements of design, seamlessly fusing these aesthetics with more conventionally Western designs and formats. This coming-together of Eastern and Western design preferences makes for unique and exciting antique carpets, with a great versatility and a fascinating overall impression.

Why do people shop for antique Axminster carpets specifically?

People may choose to shop for antique Axminster carpets for several reasons, including:

  • Historical Significance: Antique Axminster carpets have a rich history, dating back to the 18th century. They are part of the tradition of British carpet making, and some individuals are drawn to the historical significance and craftsmanship associated with these carpets.
  • Artistic and Intricate Designs: Axminster carpets are known for their intricate and elaborate designs. The artistic patterns and vibrant colors often make these carpets highly appealing to those who appreciate fine craftsmanship and unique aesthetics.
  • Quality and Durability: Axminster carpets are traditionally made from high-quality wool and constructed using a durable weaving technique. As a result, antique Axminster carpets can be seen as both functional and decorative items, providing both beauty and longevity.
  • Collector’s Items: Some individuals are avid collectors of antique carpets, viewing them as valuable artifacts that represent a specific period in history. Antique Axminster carpets, with their historical significance and unique designs, can be sought after by collectors in the world of decorative arts.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Beyond historical and collectible value, many people simply appreciate the aesthetic appeal of Axminster carpets. The combination of intricate patterns and high-quality materials can add a touch of elegance and charm to interior spaces.
  • Investment: For some buyers, antique Axminster carpets can be seen as investments. Depending on factors like rarity, condition, and provenance, these carpets may appreciate in value over time, making them not only a beautiful addition to a home but also a potentially valuable asset.

It’s important to note that individual preferences and motivations can vary. Some people may be drawn to antique Axminster carpets for their historical and artistic qualities, while others may appreciate them as unique and functional pieces of decor.

Additionally, the desire for authenticity and a connection to the past may drive individuals to seek out antique items with a particular historical and cultural background.

British Weaver Thomas Whitty and Axminster Carpets

In the 18th century, a struggling clothier visited a market in London. His experience there inspired him to start making carpets. Ultimately, his creations would become some of the most fashionable and sought-after in Europe. The story of Thomas Whitty and Axminster carpets is a fascinating tale with a legacy that extends to today.

The History of Thomas Whitty

Thomas Whitty was born in Axminster in Devon, England in 1713. Growing up, Whitty served an apprenticeship for a local clothier. Following its completion, Whitty started his own weaving business. However, he soon experienced difficulties with his business, along with many other weavers in the area. An attempt to save his business would prove to have a legacy still felt today. While looking for alternative ways to make a living, Whitty visited the Cheapside Market in London in 1754. There, he saw area rugs and carpets imported from Turkey. Whitty was impressed by the quality, size and color of the carpets. He committed himself to produce a carpet of equal quality.

It took months of experimentation and a trip to a French-run factory in Fulham, but by the summer of 1755, Whitty had made a prototype carpet ready for sale. Soon, Whitty’s Axminster carpets would be popular items in the country homes and townhouses of the aristocracy in England and other parts of Europe.

Thomas Whitty Portrait Nazmiyal

A portrait of Thomas Whitty, next to one of his Axminster carpets.

According to Whitty’s own account, a major reason for his success was repeatedly winning competitions sponsored by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. (Today, it is known as the Royal Society for the Arts.) This significantly boosted his fame and helped bring in numerous orders.

Whitty and Axminster carpets became so famous that King George III and Queen Charlotte visited the factory in 1789, an unusual occurrence. Sadly, Whitty passed away in 1792. His descendants continued to run the carpet weaving factory and make the famed rugs. However, in 1828, a fire destroyed the looms and set the business on the path to bankruptcy. Axminster Carpets, the business, was ultimately revived in the early 20th century.

To this day, it continues to produce high-end carpets and rugs inspired by Whitty’s work in the 18th century.

Thomas Whitty Family Timeline Nazmiyal

An overview of Thomas Whitty’s family and their stewardship of Axminster carpets.

Thomas Whitty’s Philosophy on Carpet Making

Although some of Whitty’s success can be attributed to good timing and luck, there is no question that he produced some truly high-quality carpets. The vibrancy, complexity and attention to detail are still noteworthy. Whitty appears to have been interested first and foremost with producing the finest carpets possible. He was also very interested in producing large carpets, a challenging proposition for hand weavers. One of the company’s most famous pieces was produced in 1800 during the tenure of Thomas Whitty III. This 23 meter by 16 meter carpet was produced for the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mahmud II.

Another aspect of Whitty’s carpet making was the celebration of special carpets. Many of the pieces produced by the company were ordered by architects to fit specific rooms in the aristocratic houses they were designing. Whenever a particularly notable project was completed, it was laid over the pews of Whitty’s church then paraded through the streets of Axminster.

Axminster Carpet 1770 Nazmiyal

An Axminster carpet from 1770.

Axminster Carpets

Axminster Carpets were hand-woven with symmetrical knotting. They were typically made with wool on woolen warps and using a flax or hemp weft. Frequently, the carpets borrowed themes from Renaissance architecture. Others had floral patterns or mimicked Oriental rug styles. Since the carpets are very wool rich, they are highly durable. This has helped them to retain their beautiful rug patterns and value over the years.

There are two major categories of Axminster carpets: antique carpets made by the Whitty family and generic carpets made using a similar process. When used generically, the term refers to a machine-made carpet with piles created using the technique for velvet or chenille.

Whitty’s Modern Legacy

Today, the town of Axminster is synonymous with carpet-making. That is all thanks to Whitty’s incredible carpets. Whitty and his descendants produced carpets for Brighton Royal Pavilion, Saltram House, Powderham Castle, Chatsworth House, Warwick Castle and many others. Some of these carpets are still in use at their original homes. Original Axminster carpets continue to be highly sought-after. They are some of the finest examples of carpet-weaving from England and anywhere in the world. A new business now operates a renovated version of the original building. Nonetheless, it is the carpets made by the Whitty family that are the most renowned.

Axminster Carpets Factory Nazmiyal

A man working at the current Axminster Carpets.

The Right Rugs for Your Home

Whether you want an Axminster carpet or any other type of rug, Nazmiyal can help. We have extensive collections of antique, vintage and modern rugs. If you need help selecting the right piece for your needs, you can connect with our experts. Discover what a high-quality rug could do for your home. Alternatively, search for the perfect investment piece, such as an original Axminster. Learn more and explore the collection today.

Here are some beautiful Axminster carpets from the Nazmiyal Collection:

Large Antique English Axminster Rug Nazmiyal

Large Antique English Axminster Rug

Antique Axminster Rug Nazmiyal

Antique Axminster Rug

Other antique rugs from England:

Antique Needlepoint English Rug Nazmiyal

Antique Needlepoint English Rug

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