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Ropes, Rigging and Knots

A maritime necessity


Poole had factories for making rope...
Poole had factories for making rope...
Poole had factories for making rope...
Poole had factories for making rope...
...inspiring the design for a new artwork
...inspiring the design for a new artwork
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Poole's Rope Walks

A fully-rigged ship from the age of sail required an astonishing amount of rope. A major warship like HMS Victory carried around 26 miles of the stuff, but even little fishing boats needed stays, halyards, anchor cables, vangs, whips and warps. 

Ropemaking was therefore an essential industry in a port town, but required a very long piece of land for the strands to be laid out straight before they were twisted together. These 'rope walks' are often easy to spot on old maps, or give their names to nearby streets, as with The Old Rope Walk in Hamworthy.

The rope strands were spun tight and laid over each other using a ropemaker's 'top' - a wooden spindle which guided the strands to the right position. As the strands of the rope twisted together, it became shorter but much stronger, capable of holding a mast in position during a gale. The film clip below demonstrates this process in action. 

Poole's connection with rope will be celebrated with a new sculpture being installed in 2021 by artist Michael Condron. The sculpture will show a rope in the process of being formed into a knot called a 'Newfoundland Bottle Knot' which was used on Poole docks to unload heavy jugs of oil from ships. 

Mikko Snellman demonstrates 19th century rope making

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