Rope was made by attaching hemp to a special type of wheel with hooks. The hemp was fixed to a horse which was then made to walk along a pathway, the wheel was made to turn and thus the yarn was made. Rope walks could be up to a quarter mile in length.
Five rope walks can be identified in Southampton:
1) Before 1777, along the line of the later Orchard Street.
2) In the late 17th and early 18th centuries a rope walk just north of Hanover Building ran west to east and finished just south of the end of Chapel Street.
3) In the 18th century, just north of Bevois Street and parallel with it, but south of the line of Ascupart Street.
4) In the 19th century, between Argyle Road and Oxford Avenue.
5) In the 19th century, in the east section of town's north ditch from the Bargate to Arundel Tower.

Joseph Clark of St Mary's Road was one of the leading rope makers in Southampton in the mid-19th century. The following description of his business is taken from George Measom's The official illustrated guide to the London and South-Western Railway, [1864], pages 407-10

Joseph Clark, Rope and Twine Manufacturer, St Mary’s Road, Southampton

That rope-making should be a staple trade in Southampton is quite in the nature of things, for that part of a ship’s fittings of most importance is, of course, the rigging or cordage. [There are three rope-walks in the town, of which this is by far the most important]. The rope-walk is nearly 1,200 feet long.
The material for nearly all our cordage comes from Russia, principally from St Petersburgh. Of the process of rope-making the following will be explanatory:
The name Rope is generally confined to the larger descriptions of cordage, such as exceed an inch in circumference….
In rope-making, whether for large or small ropes, the first process consists in twisting the hemp into thick threads, called Rope-Yarns. The common mode of spinning rope-yarns by hand is performed in the rope-ground or rope-walk, an inclosed slip of land, sometimes 600 feet or more in length. At one end of this ground a spinning-wheel is set up, which gives motion by a band to several small rollers or whirls. Each whirl has a small hook formed on the end of its axis next the walk. Each of the spinners is provided with a bundle of dressed hemp, laid round his waist, with the bight or double in front, and the ends passing each other at his back, from which he draws out a sufficient number of fibres to form a rope-yarn of the required size; and, after slightly twisting them together with his fingers, he attaches them to the hook of a whirl. The whirl being now set in motion by turning the wheel, the skein is twisted into a rope-yarn, the spinner walking backwards down the rope-walk, supporting the yarn with one hand, which is protected by a wetted piece of coarse cloth or flannel, while with the other he regulates the quantity of fibres drawn from the bundle of hemp by the revolution of the yarn….
[Joseph Cooper is also a stock and share broker, having offices in the High Street, adjoining the premises of his son, Mr Joseph Clark, the hatter and outfitter. Both are Quakers].


Further reading:
Southampton Occasional Notes 2nd Series, by ‘Townsman’, p51. (HS/h)
History of Southampton, by Rev. J. S. Davies, p108. (HS/h)


Navigation


Browse A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y-Z


Get Involved

If you wish to

  • suggest additional information for this entry
  • suggest amendments to this entry
  • offer your own research
  • make a comment

then fill in the form on the Contact page.