Honiton is a small market town in the eastern part of Devon. Just a 20 minute drive outside Exeter, it is most famous for being the historic base of lace-making which dates back to the 16th Century.
|Map of major towns in Devon|
Lace was made in and around this area for centuries by women for just a few pence a day - by Victorian times a woman could get about 5p a day for her work. Many women would work from dusk to dawn on their pieces. Usually women worked in their home, would complete a piece of lace and take it to a local trader who would then have them sewn together and then sold as a larger piece. A lace-maker could usually produce about an inch square of lace every day.
Although Honiton Lace was the name, the work could come from surrounding towns and villages: Branscombe, Axminster, Beer etc. It became known as Honiton Lace because that is where the merchants who sold the lace to traders were based. Often the work would be sold to wealthy ladies in London. Honiton Lace had a reputation of being one of the best in Britain.
Honiton Lace's most famous customer was Queen Victoria, who demanded her wedding veil was made of it. She also ordered a lace trim for her eldest child's Christening gown which was also used for her other children. Princess Diana also had a small amount of Honiton Lace on her wedding dress in 1981.
|Queen Victoria in her wedding dress|
The lace was often used for handkerchiefs, for dresses, table decorations, but very often for veils. Not all lace was white - plenty of black lace was made for mourning garments.
Today there is a small museum in Honiton that has a large display of lace.
|All Hallows Museum, Honiton contains a large amount of Honiton lace.|
There are still lace-makers in Honiton, though most of the workers do it for pleasure, but there is a strong drive to pass on the lace-making skills so that the skill is not lost forever.