Honiton has become famous for its lace, although actually the manufacture does not take place to any considerable extent in the town, but in villages, as Beer, Branscombe, Ottery, etc.
In the beginning of the sixteenth century Honiton was a centre of a flourishing trade in bone-lace, but how it was introduced is very uncertain. It has been supposed, but not proved, that Flemish refugees came to Honiton and introduced the art, but one does not quite see why they should have come so far. There is an inscription on a tombstone in Honiton churchyard to James Rodge, bone-lace seller, who died July 27th, 1617, and bequeathed to the poor of the parish the benefit of a hundred pounds. A similar bequest was made in the same year by Mrs. Minifie, a lace maker, so that both lace dealer and maker may have carried on their business for thirty years before they died.
In the latter part of James I.'s reign Honiton lace is frequently mentioned by contemporary writers. Westcote, in his View of Devon, 1620, says, "At Axminster you may be furnished with fine flax-thread there spunne. At Hemington and Bradnich with bone-laces now greatly in request." Acts were passed under Charles I. for the protection of the bone-lace makers, "prohibiting foreign purles, cut works, and bone-laces, or any commodities laced or edged therewith;" and these benefited especially the Devonshire workers, their goods being close imitations of the much-coveted Flemish pillow-laces.
Pillow-lace was preceded in England, as elsewhere, by darned netting and cut-work, A fine