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Collections25th March 2022

The Age of Rope

On Saturday 26th March, we open the doors to our brand new Ropery Gallery to showcase the expansive uses of rope across the ages with immersive film; hands-on interactives; and displays, including a vast collection of ropemaking and rope related objects from the Museum of Knots & Sailor’s Ropework; tell the story of these important buildings, the skills required with ropemaking and their place in British history, with over 400 years rooted in Chatham.

Let’s meet the man behind the Museum of Knots & Sailor’s Ropework, Des Pawson MBE, who has collected rope for over 40-years. Des himself is a rope expert and artist.

Q: What rope have you collected over all this time?

A: Rope mainly is the tool of a rigger, sail maker and other allied trades, what I have collected highlights the work that these people would make in terms of decorative and practical ropework. I am now very happy that they have a home here at Chatham.


Rope was used at sea both to cure boredom with the creative outlet that lends itself to more decorative work, whilst also providing practical uses all around the ship. The intrinsic connection between ship, man and rope highlights the importance of rope but Des believes it is often underappreciated….


Q: Why is rope so important?

A: Rope and cordage are the building blocks of civilisation. It is said that before the stone age there was a rope age. Cordage is so important, yet it is overlooked and this is one of the driving forces that made me collect.


Q: What is your favourite piece of rope in the gallery?

A: It has to be one of the shaving brushes. Really quite a rare and unusual piece, I have only ever seen one other shaving brush with ropework on it. The sailor would have spent hours making the cover. The technique used to make the rope covering the brush is normally done in much heavier material to make rope fenders. So there is this link between this practical, personal item and the items protecting them on the ship, that is why this is my favourite item going on display.

So why not step into the wonderous world of rope from Saturday 26th March? Entry to this new gallery is included within your admission ticket to The Dockyard.


Find out more about the Ropery.

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