Belfast Ropeworks Company Limited

Biography/History

Belfast Ropeworks Company Limited According to various sources, the first ropewalk was established in Belfast in 1758 and by 1860 there were about a dozen rope manufacturers employing altogether about two hundred workers. In order to cope with the rapid and enormous expansion of shipbuilding in the city, a number of local gentlemen acquired a small ropewalk on the banks of the Connswater River and in 1876 the Belfast Ropework Company was incorporated. Starting with 50 employees, this rose to 1,000 by 1888 and to 3,000 by 1900. The work was spread over four factories: the Bloomfield factory manufactured all classes of twine from the raw material right to the finished article; the Pottinger factory manufactured hard and soft fibre ropes and fishing nets of every description; the Connswater factory specialised in binder twine which was exported to all wheat-growing countries and had a world-wide reputation; the Cord factory produced all classes of soft fibre cords, baling ropes, garden and fishing lines. The scale of the whole operation in terms of the range of products and numbers employed established the firm as the largest manufacturer of rope and twine in the world in the early part of the twentieth century. During the blitz of 1941 the Ropeworks was badly damaged by high explosive bombs and incendiaries but was almost back to full production within three months. Some idea of the firm's war effort can be judged by the quarter of a million camouflage nets made in addition to the colossal weight of ropes produced for mooring ships and barrage balloons, boom defence nets and scramble nets. After the war, the Ropeworks faced new difficulties.The decline in demand for shop twine caused by the popularity of self-adhesive tape led to redundancies. Although in the early 1960s a decision was taken to move with the times by manufacturing certain synthetic fibres such as polythene yarn the Ropeworks, like many textile businesses, suffered generally because of the growth in synthetically-based products. Due to a loss of production, the Pottinger mill (including the famous ropewalk) was closed down in 1968 and as this trend continued, vacated property was let to outside interests such as a police training school. In 1972, the firm was taken over briefly by the McCleery L'Amie Group and, after 1976, operated as Connswater Properties Ltd. Today, because of urban redevelopment, nothing remains of the original Ropeworks.

Role
Rope Manufacturer