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Honiton High Street - geograph.org.uk - 46341.jpg
Honiton High Street
Grid reference: ST164004
Location: 50°48’-0"N, 3°11’24"W
Population: 11,822  (2009 est)
Post town: Honiton
Postcode: EX14
Dialling code: 01404
Local Government
Council: East Devon
Tiverton and Honiton

Honiton is a jolly market town in eastern Devon, standing by the River Otter, 17 miles northeast of Exeter. Honiton had a population estimated at 11,822 in 2009. It is most famous for its lace.

Honiton borders the East Devon "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" to the south and the Blackdown Hills AONB to the north and east, which restricts new developments fro overswelling the town. Honiton on the old road from London to Exeter, now tightly bypassed by the A30, and prime for expansion were it not so protected.

The town centre has a good number of independent retailers including a bookshop, several garden centres or plant nurseries, a fishing tackle shop, jeweller, clothing boutiques, a cycle shop, butcher, delicatessen and a fishmonger. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, an outdoor market is held on the High Street. Honiton is also popular with antique hunters, boasting over 20 antique shops. Just out of town there are larger shops.


St Michael's Parish Church stands on a small hill above the town. It was rebuilt in 1911 after a fire.

The old church was large and perfectly rectangular, was built in the Perpendicular style, with two aisles, two transepts (which did not project), and the chancel and two chancel chapels equal to it in length. The west tower and the outer walls are all that remains of the old building. The cost of the original building was paid by Bishop Courtenay of Exeter, lord of the manor of Honiton (west part) and by John and Joan Takell (east part).[1]

The mid-19th-century St Paul's Church in the town centre was designed by Charles Fowler. Its erection in 1835 required an act of Parliament[2] and the demolition of half of the adjacent Allhallows Chapel. It was built in 1837–38 in a style incorporating elements of Romanesque architecture. There are pinnacles on the tower and the arcades inside have tall columns; above the nave is a clerestory which resembles those in early Christian basilicas.[3]

Honiton is host to the annual Honiton Agricultural Show, a traditional event dating back to 1890.


Honiton Town Museum

The town grew along the line of the Fosse Way, the ancient Roman road linking Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) to Lincoln (Lindum) on which road it was an important stopping point. The location is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Honetone (from the Old English for "Huna's estate").

Honiton became an important market town, known for its lace-making, an industry introduced by Flemish folk fleeing persecution and slaughter by the Spaniards during the Elizabethan era. In the 17th century thousands of the womenfolk of Honiton were industriously making lace by hand in their homes, and later in the 19th century Queen Victoria had her wedding dress made of Honiton lace.

The town also became known for its pottery.

In the mid-18th century the town was largely destroyed by fire. Georgian houses were then built to replace some of those that had been destroyed. Honiton more than doubled in size between the 1960s and 2005, with most development taking place south of the Exeter to London (Waterloo) railway line.


Wedding dress from 1865, trimmed with Honiton lace

Honiton lace is world famous, and it is no surprise that the town was so well known for it: behind the windows of the cottages in Honiton and in the surrounding villages the ceaseless soft clack of bobbins was heard.

Mechanisation may have taken over the beautiful art of lacemaking, but it has not ceased entirely, at least as a local craft. There are still indications of Honiton's history as a centre for lace making, such as places called "Lace Walk" and the "Honiton Lace Shop".

The is a fine display of local lace in all its variety and craft in the Allhallows Museum of Lace and Local Antiquities, opposite St Paul's Church.

Houses of the town

The town museum, the Allhallows Museum of Lace and Local Antiquities, was once Allhallows Chapel, built in the 13th century, and reputed to be the oldest building in Honiton. It was once the home of Allhallows School.

The buildings of High Street are almost all Georgian, dating from after the two fires of 1747 and 1765. Of particular interest are Marwood House, 1619, and the Manor House, which was originally a coaching inn (the added porch is 19th-century). Honiton Garage dates from about 1700 and the Market Hall (which originally had arcades on the ground floor and an assembly room above) has a modest early-19th-century stone front.[1]

Local customs

The Hot Pennies ceremony takes place annually on the first Tuesday after 19 July in the High Street of the town, and dates back to the reign of King Stephen. The ceremony has its roots in the practice of landed gentry taking pleasure in throwing hot pennies from windows to local peasants, a seemingly philanthropic gesture resulting in burns. The custom also had the purpose of encouraging people to travel to the town from the surrounding area to attend a subsequent fair.[4]

At noon, the Town Crier accompanied by the Mayor and other local dignitaries, raises a garlanded pole with gloved hand at the top, and proclaims that "no man may be arrested so long as this glove is up". Warm pennies are then thrown from a number of balconies in the High Street to crowds of local people. The pole is then kept on display for the following "fair week". The children of Honiton Community College are allowed off campus for the duration of the Hot Pennies Ceremony itself.


  • Football: Honiton Town FC
  • Rugby: Honiton Rugby Club, founded in 1883

Transport links

Honiton is at the junction of the A35, the A30 and the A373 roads. The A30 now bypasses the town to the north. Until the bypass's construction in 1966, the town was blighted by traffic congestion. The town is 10½ miles from Junction 28 of the M5 motorway.

Honiton railway station is on the West of England Main Line that runs from London Waterloo to Exeter.

Outside links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Pevsner, N. (1952) South Devon. Harmondsworth: Penguin; pp. 181–83
  2. Kelly (1902). Kelly's directory. http://www.devon.gov.uk/print/index/cultureheritage/libraries/localstudies/lsdatabase.htm?url=etched/etched/110289/1.html. 
  3. Pevsner, N. (1952) South Devon. Harmondsworth: Penguin; p. 183
  4. Honiton (2010). Honiton – A Glimpse Back, T Darrant. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Honiton-Glimpse-Alan-Darrant-Terry/dp/0952813947.