Ropewalks historically were harsh sweatshops, and frequently caught on fire, as hemp dust forms an explosive mixture. Rope was essential in sailing ships and the standard length for a British Naval Rope was 1000 ft (305 m). A sailing ship such as HMS Victory required over 20 miles (32 km) of rope.
The ropewalk at Chatham Dockyard is still producing rope commercially, and the rope walk has an internal length of 1,135 ft (346 m). When it was constructed in 1790 it was the longest brick building in Europe. Before steam power was introduced in 1836, it took over 200 men to form and close a 20-inch (circumference) cable laid rope. The rope walk is used to form and close the rope, these being the final stages in rope making. Before this the raw hemp, manila hemp or sisal has to be hatchelled, spun into yarn, and tarred.
From the late 17th century, the ropewalk on the Swedish island of Lindholmen was a key component of the Karlskrona naval base producing rope up to 300 metres in length for the cordage of warships. Although production ceased in 1960, the elaborately designed facility is now open to the public with exhibitions and demonstrations of ropemaking.
- "The Historic Dockyard Chatham, where legends were created." Guide Book. 2005. Jarrold Publishing.
- "The Rope Walk on the Island of Lindholmen", Upplev Karlsrona. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
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