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Rope Making: Dressing or Hackling

Image: Part of a display at Bewdley Museum showing “hackles” and hemp fibre from Lowe’s ropeworks. Hackling or dressing cleaned the fibres before they were turned into yarn. Towards the left is a wooden top used to separate yarn during twisting (see below).

[Image from: Bewdley Museum]

The first stage of the manufacturing process involved separating the fibres from the plant. The crop was harvested, soaked in water to rot away the core of pithy material and then beaten to remove the fibre from the stalk. This aspect of the production process was conducted close to where hemp was grown and there is no evidence it was conducted in Bewdley. Instead, the town received raw fibres by river or road. Rope making in the town was a manufacturing process, transforming fibres into a useable product.

The fibres arrived at Lowe’s in bales and were broken into manageable lengths. They were pulled through hackles or a hackling board – a wooden base with iron spikes, which acted like a giant comb to clean the fibres and make sure that they ran in the same direction. Grease or linseed oil was used to speed the process. The gauge of hackles varied from coarse to fine. Different types or cordage required different grades of fibre.  Hackling was similar to the carding process in the woollen industry.



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943-0Rope Making 288-0Rope Making and Bewdley 279-0Lowe’s Rope and Twine Manufactory 301-0Lowe’s Rope and Twine Manufactory 272-0Work and Labour 282-0Work and Labour 273-0Products and Markets 299-0Products and Markets 286-0Rope Making: Dressing or Hackling 280-0Rope Making: Spinning 283-0Rope Making: Laying the Rope 296-0Rope Making: Inserting the Tops 285-0Rope Making: Stretching 291-0Rope: Making: Mechanisation 300-0The Decline of Rope Making