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Forum Home > Memorabilia From the past. > Rope Making.

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Rope Making, Bewdley, Kidderminster.


Now this is something you don't think would be associated with the Black Country. You would be sadly mistaken, as Rope Making was a vital ingredient in the success of the regions industrial past. It would have been almost impossible to haul, tow, secure, or lift without rope's of all sizes to assist. William Calcraft, and George Smith, would not have hanged so many without rope, nor made so much money selling lengths of it afterwards. Rope has been around since prehistoric times, and the ancient Egyptians were the first to primitive machines to manufacture it. They couldn't have built the Pyramids and all those Temples, without millions of miles of the stuff. It's a fairly simple process, requiring nothing more than Yarn, a wheel to turn it on, and the space to wind it. Every town and village had a rope maker, just as they did a Blacksmith, or a Wheelwright. The British Navy bought it's rope in 100 fathom lengths, ( 600 feet ) which was mainly produced in huge lofts, over a 100 feet long. There are still a few well preserved examples about today.



The vagaries of the climate in this country, is why it was made indoors, you can't wind when it's wet, the rope will rot. From twine, string, towing ropes, and heavy lifting rope, ( hawsers ) it was all manufactured locally, even the massive production of chains didn't slow down production. Every now and then, some enterprising individual, set up a rope walk outdoors. It could be he couldn't afford the cost of a massive building, because the craft does take up a great deal of space, as you can see from the pictures in the Gallery. The rope walk in the photo's, was still in operation up to the start of the great war in 1914, and only closed when the owner died. It looks to be about 200 feet long, and when the shot was taken, in 1900, a very busy place indeed. Strange as it may seem, the principle of rope making remains unchanged, it's only the machines and the yarns used that have altered. The modern clothes line, that shiny plastic length of simplicity, still has a rope or steel wire core. Wound just the same as the ancients of old would have done it. You can still find, on the canals, many use's to which rope is put, including the old fashioned rope mooring fender. Oh, and by the way, down in London, they still make rope for the purpose of hanging people. Now-a-days it's made from top quality soft Manilla, wouldn't want them to get a badly scratched neck, would we.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 20, 2011 at 4:06 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

History of Rope making. Bewdley, Kidderminster, Museum.


The History of Rope making goes back a long way, as you can imagine. It started to be Manufactured in quantity, in Birmingham, around the 1730s, but due to poor transport links, spread out to the quiet little riverside town of Bewdley. From the early 1800s, there sprang up. alongside the river Severn, 4 rope making concerns, the largest of which was Lowes Rope Manufactory. This was situated on the opposite side of the river to the main town, and had it's own large wharfe. It claimed to have started in 1801, but the only surviving documents put the lease date for the works around 1817. They sent rope all around the midlands and beyond, via the river, and the road network, which connected the town to both Kidderminster, and Stourbridge. The Stourport canal gave the business a nasty set back, but the works managed to keep going, with the introduction of the Railway. It survived until 1972, in the shadow of the Severn Valley Railway via-duct. Today, Bewdley is still a nice place for a day out for thousands of Black Country folk, as it always has been. In the Museum, in the towns "Shambles ", can be found an illustrated history of the rope making at this company. For those interested in some of our ancient crafts, it's well worth the visit. The Museum also has a site online.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 27, 2012 at 10:16 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Rope Making.


Have you ever wondered, why the number thirteen is concidered to be unlucky. It certainly isn't in other countries. Here's one theory. In an age long gone, and before there were any accurate measuring instruments, Rope was sold, and used by the " turn ". Unable to read or write anyway, the old hangmen developed a surefire method of making a good noose. Thirteen turns of inch and a half rope, was just the right length, to fit snugly around the then, average neck. As far as I know, it still is, but sadly, with capital punishment a thing of the past, I can't say for certain.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 23, 2012 at 3:30 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now I wouldn't want anyone to get the impression, that the good folk of the Black Country, didn't know how to make rope; they did, as the following bit will testifiy to. There were no less than four rope makers in Dudley. In Stafford Street there was Thomas Clemenson and Sons, beavering away to fill orders for the mines and the canal traffic. No less industrious would have been William Squires, in his workshop in Salop Street, as would have been Enoch Haden, in nearby Castle Street.  It's believed that he was favoured by the Earl of Dudley, which may explain why he also had premise's at Holly Hall, and at Toll End, Tipton. Thr fourth one was Samuel Whitehouse, who operated in competion with Haden, from his works in Woodside, Dudley. The rope of course was in constant demand, it doesn't last long in wet and damp places like mines and canal water, nor indeed on a railway, where it was sometimes used to hold a train together.



Yes, I know that would have been illegal, but some people were always prepared to take a risk with other peoples lives. Noah Wood, had a rope walk in Greets Green somewhere, and it's believed. another in High Street, West Bromwich, or at least, that was where he sold miles of rope from. Walsall was well served by the firm of Hawleys, whch had premise's in Barbers Field, and Goodall Street, and trade was so good they opened a place in Bilston. A competitor, Thomas Jennings were in Rushall Street, and up the road in Bloxwich, was a company believed to be David Machin. Saddle making consumed a great deal of the smaller rope, as did the making of harness, but again the bulk went to mining and the canals. You could of course, if you had the room at your poverty ridden mansion, buy a clothes line as well. Thats if you had anything to wash in the 1830s. I suppose Micheal Hodgetts in Cradley did a good business as well, they had mines there, and the bellows for the furnaces that supplied the heat for Nails and Chains, had to be pumped. Henry Oliver, now there's a well known family name, made rope in the High Street Stourbridge, in the 1840s, but seems to have ceased in the 1850s. Really useful stuff is rope, and you only think about it when you suddenly find you need a length to tie something up. Double sided sticky tape is all very well, but you can't tie a double hitch in it, can you, or tow a broken down vehicle.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

August 19, 2013 at 3:52 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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