Jan 13, 2016
The rich history of luxury carpet manufacturer Axminster Carpets will be explored in a BBC Two show hosted by Michael Portillo on Thursday (January 14).
Great British Railway Journeys takes Michael around the country visiting the train stations which were detailed in Victorian cartographer George Bradshaw’s popular railway guides of the 1880s. Of Axminster he wrote: “Some of the best and finest description of carpets are made here.”
Over 130 years later Axminster Carpets continue to design and weave world-renown luxury British carpets at their factory in the heart of Axminster.
Great British Railway Journeys sees the presenter trying his hand at designing and weaving carpet charting the evolution of carpet manufacture since Bradshaws time. Working alongside design director Gary Bridge and experienced weaver Steve Marks, Michael charts both the history of carpets at Axminster and how the design process has evolved from tracing paper to the modern computer programmes used today.
Indeed, railways have had a large role to play in Axminster Carpets’ history. After carpet making began in the town in the 18th century, the local industry ground to a halt after a devastating factory fire. Some 180 years later, a vicar from the West Country got chatting to a carpet manufacturer called Harry Dutfield during a train journey, and he recounted the history of local carpet making. This conversation ignited a spark in Harry, who resolved to continue carpet making in Axminster.
Axminster director and grandson of Harry Josh Dutfield said: “We were delighted to welcome Michael and highlight how our carpet-making traditions have stood the test of time. It’s a source of immense pride to us that our company has been flourishing and at the centre of British Manufacture for so long; and with customers as prestigious as the Royal Household, we continue to have a very bright future ahead of us.”
Josh added: “my grandfather placed his factory beside the town’s railway platform, as it enabled him to transport carpet throughout the country. The old loading shed and siding can still be seen next to the factory today.”
Great British Railway Journeys airs on BBC Two at 6.30pm on Thursday, January 14. For more information about Axminster, visit www.axminster-carpets.co.uk or call 01297 32244.