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Map > Honiton > History

A recently excavated site has uncovered a fascinating insight into pre-historic Britain. Hippopotamus, elephant and Ox reveal a snippet of the landscape and wildlife as it used to be over 100,000 years ago. These are now on public display at Honiton's All Hallows Museum, itself housed in one of Honiton's oldest buildings.

Honiton, with its rich craft heritage is a tribute to the evolution of man and his capacity for labour. Wool and cloth were some of the first goods to be traded on a commercial basis in the town in the 13th Century. By the 19th Century, around the year 1881, Honiton's repute had spread beyond fabrics and wool, to pottery. It began to produce highly unusual and world renown pieces after the Second World War, when its art deco pieces established the town as a centre for expertise.

Lace making
Honiton has for hundreds of years been a centre for lace-making. It once boasted a huge population of lace-makers, women who would sit outside their houses using the hard light of day to weave their highly intricate patterns. It is an extremely labour intensive craft, requiring precision, patience and often hundreds of hours of work. It was the machine made, cheaper lace alternative that eventually caused the crafts demise in Honiton town. Arguably the most wonderful commission ever undertaken by the lace-makers of the area was in 1841 for Queen Victoria's wedding dress. So pleasing were the results that an invitation soon followed to produce the christening robe of her eldest son, later to be King Edward VII. Remarkably, the delicately woven gown is still in use by royalty today.

Although there are still lace-makers resident in Honiton, and demonstrations are mounted in the town throughout the year, it has now largely been reduced to a fascinating hobby. The Honiton Lace shop still supplies old and new lace to the world, from antique wedding veils to christening robes. The Allhallows museum in Honiton itself, displays some beautiful examples of the work of some of the town's finest lace makers.

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Hot Penny Catching
One of the old traditions of Honiton that lives on today is that of the Hot Penny Catching Ceremony. The town crier ushers in the celebrations surrounding the town's annual fair. The strange ceremony entails a golden glove being carried around atop a long garlanded pole. It is said that whilst the golden glove is raised thieves and criminals are immune from prosecution. The town crier announces the beginning of the annual fair, and soon after, heated pennies are cast among the onlookers and eagerly gathered by the town's young people.