When the Ropewalk closed down it was turned into an Art and Craft Centre. This is the place to go to see craftsmen and women at work and to buy unusual gifts. It is also free.
The Ropewalk is a long low brick building just beyond Tesco and beside Barton Haven. It was the centre of rope making in Barton upon Humber. Rope making was a cottage industry before John Hall built the Ropery in 1801, using locally grown hemp to make the ropes. It was a major employer in Barton.
Initially most of the ropes were sold to the whaling and fishing fleets in Hull and sent there by barge. By the mid 19thC the Ropery was making ropes for the fishing industry in Grimsby. By the 1930s the ‘Hall-Mark’ ropes were sent all over the world to be used in heavy industries like mining and construction. During the Second World War, ropes were supplied to the navy. These had a tape running through the centre so they could be identified if stolen. In the 1960s and 70s both synthetic and natural fibre ropes were made.
Being close to the River Humber, flooding was a problem and the Ropery had small openings on either side to let the flood water in from the Haven and then out into a field.
With increasing mechanisation rope making in Barton was no longer economic and the Ropery closed in 1989 and has been turned into a contemporary art and craft centre. Outside there is a sculpture garden with sculptures made of coiled wires. Inside it is a light and airy building with several temporary exhibition areas. When we visited, one had a display of bird prints and birds made from chicken wire. Another had a series of riverscape paintings.
There are small units displaying the work of local craftsmen and women. These include pottery, glassware, jewellery, scarves and bags as well as a picture framer.
The centre also runs a series of craft workshops during the year as well as a fortnightly knitting session. There is also a very good coffee shop.
We moved through these fairly quickly and headed for the display area on the history of rope making.
This occupies the length of part of the building and still has the brick walls and massive beam ceiling. There is a lot of written material to read, photographs, examples of the ropes manufactured and a range of artefacts used in manufacture as well as the factory buzzer which could be heard five miles away. Unfortunately I hadn’t allowed myself time to read the information boards properly. There were also education packs which had a lot of easily assimilated information. We will have to come back. It is also worth spending time on the website before a visit as there is a wealth of information on it.
Visit the Ropewalk website
Archive videos on the history of rope making and stories of people who worked there.