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The Victorian Ropewalk used by the Master Ropemakers

Master Ropemakers Ltd

At the heart of The Historic Dockyard Chatham, Master Ropemakers maintains a process of rope making that dates back on this site for more than 400 years.

Your custom today helps keeps our historic ropewalk alive.

Our story

Utilised for centuries by the Royal Navy, the Ropery at Chatham was once used to produce up to 5,000 tonnes of cordage for its fleet of nearly 1,000 ships.

The Royal Navy has long since left Chatham, but as the Navy shipped out, the Master Ropemakers moved in and our Ropery remains the oldest rope making facility in the UK.

The tradition of producing the finest ropes for the Royal Navy Ships, including the most legendary, HMS VICTORY (built here at Chatham), continues today with a range of new markets. We still use the ¼ mile long rope walk and machinery from the Victorian era, which can be seen on the Historic Dockyard’s Ropery Tour, as well as on more modern equipment including our testing house.

We use natural and synthetic fibres in the manufacture and our team of craftsmen and women not only produce the rope but work with it: splicing, knotting, net making and creating bespoke products to customer requirements.

We supply a long list of Trade Customers in a variety of sectors with products and services. Although focusing on standard industrial length coils, we are one of the only Ropemakers in the UK prepared to carry out low volume production runs and we extend the customer care and service even further with our very personal and approachable manner.

Practical overnight deliveries across the UK and international orders are also very welcome.

We operate the latest ISO 9001 standards and all our staff are highly trained and experienced.

For further details or enquiries , our friendly team is always on hand to offer advice.

How we make rope – Part 1

Hatchelling & Spinning

Hatchelling is the straightening or combing out of the raw fibres, just the same as combing your hair in the morning. These fibres are then taken by the Spinner who would wrap a bundle round his waist, twist some onto a rotating hook and then feeding them in walking backwards, would spin up to 1000 feet of yarn in twelve minutes. Almost the length of the ropewalk.

This yarn would then be wound onto bobbings and taken over to the ropewalk for the final two stages, Forming and Closing.

How we make rope – part 2

Forming

The yarns are set up and run out through a Register Plate and then through a Die to compress the yarns closely together. A register plate is a plate full of holes, just like a colander, and the number of yarns going through it depends on the size of rope being made.

After the Die, they are attached to a forming machine called a Maudslay and run out as strands to the full length of the ropewalk.

They are then left to settle out.

How we make rope – part 3

Laying

The final stage of rope making is the closing of the rope. This is carried out by using the closing machines, one at each end of the ropewalk. At the far end is the Standing machine and the one in front of you is the Traveller. One has to be able to move, because, as the strands are closed into rope, the rope shortens on itself. Usually, three strands are attached to three separate hooks on each machine. The machines are then started, twisting the strands to tension or harden them. When satisfied that the strands are at the correct hardness, the process is stopped and all three strands at the Traveller end are placed onto one hook.

You will then see the top introduced. This is a conical shaped piece of wood with three groves, one for each strand, and shaped at an angle of 37 degrees to give the correct angle of lay for the final closing of the rope.

The process is then restarted with the force of the closing of the rope behind the top, pushing the top, and hence the top cart, all the way to the end of the ropewalk.

Get roped in

A place like no other

Rope has been made at Chatham since 1618. Find out more about the types of rope we manufacture at Chatham and the history of our incredible ropewalk and associated buildings.