Sunday, August 12, 2012

Honiton Lace

by Jenna Dawlish

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. 

5 comments:

  1. That was very interesting! Thank you for sharing!

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  2. I'm sorry to be pedantic but a 'd' signified a penny £.s.d. pounds shillings and pence. When the English switched to decimal currency they came up with what they called new pence signified by the letter 'p'.
    Apart from that I must say this is an excellent blog and I'm only sorry I never visited this town when I was in Devonshire in '05 I know I would have enjoyed this. As a boy my mother made my brother and me learn to knit and crochet, her father being a naval man was very adept at these tasks and she felt that if her father could do it then her sons must, we lived in a strange household.
    I haven't done either for more years than I care to remember but I still get great enjoyment when I see these works of art; for surely that's what they are!

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  3. Thanks everyone, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Lordbeariofbow, yes I do know about the d vs p, but felt most would identify more with the pence. Though I was born post - decimalisation. ;0)

    Honiton is also famous for pottery.....but you'll have to wait until next month for that post ;0)

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  4. Lovely lace - enjoyed this post. Unfortunately I'm old enough to remember the old "d".The old penny coins were much bigger, and I remember collecting the ones with a portrait of Queen Victoria when I was a child. They were rare then - I'm not THAT old!

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