Monday, 6 February 2017

The home of rope

Rope has been produced in Bridport for the last 800 years. Back as far as 1213 King John exhorted the people of Bridport to make ' night and day as many ropes for ships both large and and as many cables as you can.' The raw material came from the surrounding area, hemp was grown in the sheltered valleys and flax was grown on the slopes. 




South street with long gardens behind,

If you look carefully you will see evidence of the rope making industry all around Bridport.  Many of the buildings fronting the main street have a long strip of land behind where the workers would walk up and down. At the far end of these rope walks was a turn house where a jack was hoisted to twist the thread.  

A  summer picture showing one of the factories
The craft of making rope and nets could employ the whole family and neighbouring villages around here would specialise in different sizes of net required to catch different varieties of fish.  Many of the older generation in the town or surrounding villages still remember net making being carried out at home, and there are still a few outworkers even now. 

In the 18th century the quality of Bridport lines and nets was well known throughout the world. One of the biggest exports was for the Newfoundland fishing industry. I have been recently reading Rudyard Kipling's book Captain Courageous, although it is a children's book it gives a good description of  the fishermen and fishing fleet off the Grand Banks at that time.

 In 1858 there were 14 distinctive firms manufacturing nets, cordage and canvas in Bridport.  It is quite surprising that the town still has a similar number of firms that involved in the rope making industry!

Out workers net braiding via
Growing hemp stopped in the late 19th century and following the Second World War the use of natural materials in rope started to decline as synthetic material was introduced. The synthetic material was stronger and lasted longer, although the fishing industry continued to use rope as they couldn't afford to pay the higher prices for the new materials.   


 This carving above illustrates the main uses of Bridport rope, net and twine from fishing and ship ropes and cables. tennis nets including those at Wimbledon, football goal nets (1966 World Cup), cricket nets, skipping ropes, gardening, camouflage, used in the aviation industry for cargo pallets net, carrying large loads by helicopter. A more gruesome use of the rope Bridport produced was for the hangman's noose and was often called "The Bridport Dagger."



Our local museum is currently closed and is being renovated thanks to National Lottery Money. It's biggest display will be the story of rope making in the town, in a new imaginative way. I have in a very small way as a volunteer been involved in this project over the last year.  You really don't appreciate how much hard work goes on behind the scenes to empty, redesign and reopen a museum! Hopefully it will open at the end of May and I am sure to feature it again then.

The outside of the building at the moment.
Thank you for your comments and visits,until next time.
Sarah x

30 comments:

  1. Interesting to see and learn about where the rope came from, Sarah. Thank you.

    I remember watching nets being name like in that carving, middle on left.

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  2. Thank you, Sarah, for this fascinating post!

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  3. A very interesting post, Sarah!

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  4. Ein schöner Beitrag! Besonders das Bild mit den arbeitenden Frauen zeigt genau, wie es damals zuging!

    Sigrun

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  5. I had heard of rope walks in other places, but not Bridport, so this was interesting to read! I hope that you will enjoy visiting the museum when the renovations etc are done, it is great that history is being shared in this way - and on your blog too!

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  6. Thank you Sarah for a fascinating post. I bet you are loving working behind the scenes at the museum. The joys of retirement. B x

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  7. It's amazing how the daily things we use have to come from somewhere; I often take things for granted, but someone had to invent and figure out what would work, then begin the process of manufacturing. We live in a wondrous world!

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  8. Hello Sarah, this post is fascinating, thank you for explaining so many things I knew nothing about.
    I’m sure I must have visited Bridport in the past but I really don’t remember it so it must be time to make its acquaintance again. We lived in Dorset for ten or so years but moved to Somerset nine years ago.

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  9. Such an interesting and informative post Sarah and how lovely to have been involved with the new project at the Museum - it will be exciting when it opens.
    Love the first photo of the ropes showing the different textures and soft colours.

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  10. First Sarah, I just love that header picture. Those ropes are beautiful. What an interesting post.

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  11. I just shared on Twitter and FB: so interesting! And yes, your header picture is just gorgeous Sarah!

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  12. Fascinating, Sarah! I didn't know ANY of that.

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  13. So very interesting! I can't tell you the number of times we have walked past the Museum and I didn't even realise, so hopefully it will reopen this year (?) as this may be our last year with the caravan! X

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    1. It should be open in May, you defintely will have to try and visit it if this will your last year with the caravan. It's not very large so it won't take too long and it's free. Sarah x

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  14. A very interesting slice of history...it made me think how much rope is something we take for granted and we could not live without....this would make a good children's non-fiction book.(I say as a retired teacher)
    Local museums are always interesting to visit, and I know here in Australia most of the smaller ones are run by volunteers.....so, good for you helping out.

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    1. There are many small museums in Dorset and they couldn't run without volunteers. I love to learn about stories of past lives that are unique to a location. Sarah x

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  15. Interesting post and the picture with the rope is so beautiful...
    Have a lovely wednesday!
    Love from Titti

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  16. It is fascinating to learn about the history of towns like Bridport - I had no idea about the rope-making. Thanks for enlightening me. There are so many items that we take for granted and don't think about where they originated, how they were made, etc. It must be hugely interesting to be involved in the revamp of the museum and I look forward to reading more about it when it opens. Sam x

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  17. Very interesting, Sarah. There is so much to see in Bridport that is slightly hidden away, like the long gardens you mention. The St Michaels area (now the arts quarter) is another part that was originally associated with rope making I think?

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    1. Yes the St Michaels area includes covered rope walks that were used from the 1890's to the 1960's. The museum runs heritage walks during the summer that take you around some of these hidden gems. We visited one of the factories a few years ago and it was fascinating to see what they were doing. Sarah

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  18. Oh, thank you for this fun history lesson!

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  19. A super interesting post, Sarah. You never think about the history of humble daily objects that make all the difference.
    Amalia
    xo

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  20. Thank you for all the information and lovely photos. Indeed fascinating. I would love to see that museum. I also love the photo in the new banner. It's great to see a close up of the ground around. Is that a bone in right side of the photo?

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  21. Dear Sarah,

    Thank you for sharing the interesting post and how wonderful to see the rope and where it is made. Also great that you are helping out with work at the museum and I look forward to seeing more when it opens again.
    Have a great weekend
    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  22. What a lovely post, bringing the history of Bridport to life. I always enjoy visiting small museums because they display fascinating things that are specific to their area. I shall have to visit!

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  23. Thank you for such an informative and fascinating post, Sarah. I really enjoyed it.

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  24. I havent been to Bridport for years. How interesting that some of the houses have a ropewalk behind them. It is fascinating to learn about the features that make a town unique.

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  25. Fascinating. I know that there used to be quite a bit of rope making here in Maine, too. Now you have me intrigued. I will have to learn more about it. Thanks for sharing this.

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  26. A lovely post and I love your new header photograph Sarah.

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  27. Sarah this was so very interesting! Love the photos...fascinating. We once had a great deal of rope stolen from a cargo ship the captain worked on (at anchor in a very poor country). The value of it was made quite clear to us!

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