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The Ropeworks Today

Increased mechanisation has allowed the introduction of new and more sophisticated products to the traditional range of agricultural ropes. Since 1975 more and more machines have been bought, including American and British braiding machines and their associated yarn winding machines. A prototype dipping machine for the chemical finishing of wick for candles was designed and built by the ropemakers’ own staff.

Having levered a quart into a pint pot in the old workshop, every time we wanted a new piece of machinery we had to work out which old items to discard! Eventually we decided to put up new premises, in stages, with ex-tensions to the original wooden shed followed by a spacious new building in the station yard. Thus the original 400 square foot wooden shed - built in the 1920s - has grown to premises of 10,000 square feet overall.

Planning for expansion within the Yorkshire Dales National Park was a matter of long discussion with the planners, culminating in a modern factory based on an attractive (but very expensive) Midland Railway design called Derby Gothic. It is built from quality stone, with a Welsh slate roof, to match the former Victorian railway station nearby.

In 1992 we moved the long ropewalk into the new building - this determined its length - so that even the longest church bell rope could be made under cover. On the rare occasions when we need a longer rope, we open the door into the car park and extend the ropemaking outside.

The new building has proved its worth, providing much-needed extra space for the growing markets in knit-braid, dog leads (there are supposed to be seven million dogs in the UK and they all need a lead), bannister and barrier ropes. Even the traditional bell rope market doubled in 1999 and 2000 because of all the extra bell ringing associated with Ringing In and Ringing Out the Millennium.

The new building also provided space for a classroom for school visits, a video about the ropeworks, and a wheelchair friendly walkway for all visitors. For the future, we envisage more intensive use of the premises to increase production and outside, hopefully, the return of the long-closed Wensleydale Railway.

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