HONITON, a market town and municipal borough in the Honiton parliamentary division of Devonshire, England, pleasantly situated on rising ground on the left bank of the Otter, 161 m. E.N.E. of Exeter by the London & South-Western railway. Pop. (1901) 3271. The town consists of one wide street, down which a stream of water runs, extending for about 1 m., and crossed at right angles by a lesser street. The restored church of St Michael, formerly a parish church, but standing on a hill about 1 m. from the town, was built by Courtenay, bishop of Exeter, about 1482. It retains a curiously carved screen, and the black marble tomb of Queen Elizabeth’s physician, Marwood, who attained the age of 105. Allhallows Grammar School, founded in 1614, was enlarged in 1893; St Margaret’s hospital, founded as a lazar-house in the 14th century, is converted into almshouses. Honiton is famous for its lace industry, established by refugees from Flanders under Queen Elizabeth. The delicate fabric made by hand on the pillow was long in demand; its sale was, however, greatly diminished by the competition of cheaper machine-made goods, and a school of lace-making was opened to promote its recovery. The town possesses breweries, tanneries, malthouses, flour-mills, saw-mills, brick and tile works, potteries and an iron foundry; its trade in butter is considerable. It is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 3134 acres.
Honiton (Honetona, Huneton) is situated on the British Icknield Street, and was probably the site of an early settlement, but it does not appear in history before the Domesday Survey, when it was a considerable manor, held by Drew (Drogo) under the count of Mortain, who had succeeded Elmer the Saxon, with a subject population of 33, a flock of 80 sheep, a mill and 2 salt-workers. The borough was founded before 1217 by William de Vernon, earl of Devon, whose ancestor Richard de Redvers had received the manor from Henry I. In the 14th century it passed to the Courtenays, and in 1698 Sir William Courtenay was confirmed in the right of holding court leet, view of frank-pledge and the nomination of a portreeve, these privileges having been surrendered to James II. The borough was represented by two members in parliament in 1300 and 1311, and then not again till 1640, from which date it returned two members until disfranchised by the act of 1868, the returning officer being the portreeve, who was also the chief magistrate of the borough until its incorporation by charter of 1846. In 1221 Falkes de Breauté, then custodian of the borough, rendered a palfrey for holding a three days’ fair at the feast of All Saints, transferred in 1247 to the feast of St Margaret, and still held under that grant. A great market for corn and other produce is still held on Saturday by prescription. The wool manufacture flourished at Honiton in the reign of Henry VII., and it is said to have been the first town at which serges were made, but the industry entirely declined during the 19th century. The lace manufacture was introduced by Flemish refugees, and was flourishing in the reign of Charles I.
See Victoria County History, Devonshire; A. Farquharson, History of Honiton (Exeter, 1868).