Yarns from the Ropeworks - A History and a Memoir
by David Ellwood with Judith M S Robinson
Tools and Trades History Society, 2017 ISBN 978 0 947673 26 0
This small volume was brought to my attention by a friend in Scotland some time prior to publication, when the idea of
the book was first being considered. He subsequently advised me of its completion and, on his recommendation, I bought
It is a slim volume of 62 pages compiled by Judith Robinson from the papers and notes of David Ellwood who had a ropemaking
business in Kendal. The book gives a useful and detailed account of the various fibres used in the construction of
cord and rope from historic times into the modern synthetic age.
This is followed by an account of making rope and twine, interspersed with short anecdotes of incidents that had occurred
during Ellwood’s career reflecting his wry sense of humour, and there are numerous photographs throughout, showing
aspects of the work.
The last section of the book covers the development of the company from its beginning, when his great-grandfather was
apprenticed to a rope-maker in 1841 at the age of 18. The company took several turns, all loosely within the family until
David finally retired in 2003.
It makes a most enjoyable read for anyone with no knowledge of the rope industry, but if you have some idea of how rope is
made, then you can learn even more from this account, especially when twine is discussed. You will also start to appreciate
the range of specialised skills possessed by experienced rope-makers.
David Ellwood, as the narrator, comes across as a knowledgeable and friendly man who took pride both in the products he
made and also in the family tradition. He was also happy to give advice and assistance to any sensible enquirer.
There is a foreword by Des Pawson who had been a customer of David Ellwood for many years, and had visited him on a
number of occasions.
Available from the TATHS website http://taths.org.uk/ .