North Lincolnshire - Part 1
Ropewalk is a long low brick building just beyond Tesco and
along Barton Haven. In its time it was one of the longest
pantiled buildings in the country. It could make ropes up to
145 fathoms (265m) long and was the centre of rope making in
Barton upon Humber. Rope making was a cottage industry
before John Hall, a wealthy ship owner and merchant from
Hull, built the Ropery in 1801, using locally grown hemp to
make the ropes. Being close to the River Humber, flooding
was a problem and the Ropery had small openings on either
side to let the flood water in from the Haven and then out
into a field.
It was a major employer in Barton. Initially ropes were still made by hand but by the mid C19th it was all mechanised, initially using steam power and later gas engines.
Originally most of the ropes were sold to the whaling and fishing fleets in Hull and sent there by barge. By the mid 19thC the Ropery was making ropes for the whaling and fishing industry in Hull and Grimsby. They also supplied rope to the Admiralty during the Crimea War. They were one of the first roperies to start making wire rope and the largest supplier of wire anti-submarine nets to the Admiralty during the First World War. By the 1930s the ‘Hall-Mark’ ropes were sent all over the world to be used in heavy industries like mining and construction. During the Second World War, ropes were supplied to the navy and wire cables to the RAF. These had a tape running through the centre so they could be identified if stolen. In the 1960s and 70s both synthetic and natural fibre ropes were made.
With increasing mechanisation, rope making in Barton was no longer economic and the Ropery closed in 1989 and has been turned into a contemporary art and craft centre. Outside there is a sculpture garden with sculptures made of coiled wires. Inside it is a light and airy building with several temporary exhibition areas. There are small units displaying the work of local craftsmen and women and the centre also runs a series of craft workshops during the year as well as a fortnightly knitting session. There is also a very good coffee shop.
Part of the building has been turned into a display area covering the story of rope making.
This is divided up into five sections down the right hand side which cover the manufacture of ropes from the raw materials to the finished ropes. There are examples of some of the machinery used in rope making. Archive videos cover the history of rope making as well as stories of people who worked there.
On the left had wall is a series of display boards with background information and working in the factory. There is also the Ropery Buzzer which went off at 7.30 every morning and again at 4.30 when work stopped. Staff were allowed a total of five minutes a week to be late. At 8am the gates were locked and pay was docked. The buzzer could be heard five miles away and people set their clocks by it.
Conditions on the Ropewalk could be dangerous as there was no protection from the moving machinery. Hair or loose clothing could get caught or fingers lost. Fire was also a constant threat before a sprinkler system was installed in the 1940s. The floor was beaten earth and in winter this could be covered with ice. Bells were hung at both ends of the ropewalk to let workers communicate.
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