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General News24th July 2019

We’ve been awarded a grant for The Victorian Ropery…

We are delighted to announce we have received funding from the Association for Industrial Archaeology for conservation and repair works to machinery within our Victorian Ropery!

The Victorian Ropery at the Dockyard was built in the 1700s and still makes rope to this day. Visitors can witness the ropemaking process for themselves every weekday in the traditional way.

When built between 1786 and 1791, the building was equipped with a range of ropemaking equipment which for that time was state of the art. It included equipment patented by both Joseph Huddart and John Daniel Belfour. In 1809-11 Simon Goodrich (Navy Board mechanist) and Henry Maudslay introduced pioneering mechanical forming machines to improve the quality of the manufacture of rope strands. One of these machines remains in regular operational use today!

In 1854, new sets of closing machines were installed enabling the rope closing process to become steam powered. Both these and the earlier Maudslay forming machines have remained in use to the present day. They are used not only to produce rope that is sold on a commercial base, but to also demonstrate the unique equipment to visitors and maintain traditional ropemaking skills into the 21st Century.

Despite regular maintenance, wear and tear of 165 years of continuous operation has taken its toll on some of the mechanics of one of the closing machines. The 1854 closing machine set is used for the majority of ropemaking demonstrations delivered on the ropewalk, and the wear and tear has proceeded to a point where simple adjustment is no longer possible.

The AIA (Association for Industrial Archaeology) has awarded the Dockyard a restoration grant of £17,200 towards the cost of restoration of the 1854 ropemaking machinery. The AIA is the national society for industrial heritage, which has supported the study, preservation and presentation of industrial heritage in Britain since 1973.

It’s past Chairman, Keith Falconer OBE, who co-ordinates the Restoration Grant programme, states that the Association was delighted to be able to support the conservation of such an technologically significant machine in the world renowned Ropery.

The project is due to commence in October 2019 and will be completed by early 2020.

Paul Barnard – Director of Communications and Development (Assistant Chief Executive) at The Historic Dockyard Chatham said “We are delighted to have received funding from the Association for Industrial Archaeology to support this important project.  The Victorian Ropery is one of our most important assets and enabling the machinery to continue operating ensures the long-term sustainability of this national treasure”


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