The Fascinating History of the Rugs in the UK
When most people think about rugs and carpets, it’s likely that images of far-flung oriental places will instantly jump to mind. But believe it or not there is actually a very rich heritage and history behind the rugs manufactured right here in the UK.
With that in mind, we thought we'd shed some light on the unique and fascinating history of English rugs...
The first carpet weavers in the UK
According to most sources, the very first carpet makers were Flemish, and came to England in the 16th Century. Interestingly, many of these settlers came to live in the Norwich area in Norfolk, where they continued to make carpets and rugs. As such, the first carpets made in the UK are sometimes referred to as 'Norwich carpets'. In terms of the designs these carpet weavers chose, many examples seem to be inspired by carpets from around the world -- including India and Persia. The only remaining carpets from this early in the history of rugs are several examples from the Exeter and Axminster areas. Naturally, due to the carpets being over 400 years old, they are kept in extremely controlled conditions -- so you're unlikely to see any adorning a floor near you!
The rise of Axminster carpets
In the year 1755, a man called Thomas Whitty established a factory in Axminster, Devon, and began production of a carpet which still has some visible influences in the machine-made carpets sold today. By the time the factory closed in 1835, many advances in carpet-making technology had been made – including those similar to velvet and chenille methods. Today, Axminster carpet is still available in three different forms: tufted, hand-knotted or machine-woven. It is the latter type that remains the most popular in England.
Modern carpets and rugs in the UK
The heritage of English rugs and carpets which began in places like Axminster and Wilton is still recognisable in the form of machine-woven designs. Generally speaking, the hand-tufted rugs are sourced from places such as Egypt, India and Africa, but due to the Industrial Revolution and advances in machinery within the UK, machine-woven led the way. One of the key benefits of rugs made by machine is that they are highly durable, often lasting more than thirty years.
If you’re in the market for a high quality rug (from the UK or anywhere else), why not check out our full range? Or, if you have any questions, quiz our experts now on 0845 8388638.