General Information on Flax
Flax is a wonderful natural material. In the 16th century when Arthur
Beale was called John Buckingham Flax Dresser and Rope Maker the blue flowering flax plant would probably have grown locally in the Parish of St Giles in the Fields. Our shop still stands in the very same spot but the flax fields have now been replaced with the modern West End of London. In the 16th century Elizabeth I encouraged flax growing by stating: for the better provision of making nets for the furtherance of fishing,
and to eschewing of idleness By the end of the 16th century sail cloth manufacturing became well established and the burgeoning demand from the expanding Navy would soon outstrip the local supply of flax and imports of the fibre were required from Russia and Eastern Europe.
Flax was the prefered material to make the sails and so the ropemakers turned to hemp to manufacture their ropes. Flax fibre is very hard to distinguish from hemp. The first process to extract fibre from the flax plant is to rot away the inner stalk. This is called retting. This can be done in ponds, streams or with dew in the open. Dressing flax is the process of removing the straw from the fibres. Dressing consists of three steps: breaking, scutching, and heckling.
The breaking breaks up the straw. Some of the straw is scraped from the fibres in the scutching process, and finally, the fibres are pulled through heckles to tease out the last bits of straw. The word heckling derives from this process. Only at this stage can the fibre be twisted to form twines and ropes.
Our company used to own rope walks in Tottenham Court Road, Maiden Lane and in Whites Conduit Fields in Islington. Today our flax hemp is still made by hand on the rope walk in Chatham, Kent which dates back to 1790. At the time it was the longest brick building in Europe. When you purchase a length of our lovely flax hemp you are buying a piece of
British Maritime History!
Flax "Hemp" Ropes
Three Strand Flax Hemp (Hawser Laid) Flax rope isbnot treated with tar when it is made so it is not very resilient out of doors. However its very soft feel makes it ideally suited for interior handrail or barrier ropes and for climbing ropes. Furthermore, unlike most synthetic ropes, it will withstand heat without losing strength so it is often used as theatre counterweight hauling lines. The fact that it is a fully bio-degradable natural product makes it an ecologically sound alternative to petroleum derived modern ropes.
- Fully bio-degradable
- Soft Feel
- Withstands heat without losing strength
- Hand made in England
- Classic good looks
- Good knot holding
- Ages with a beautiful patina
- Can be fire proofed for exhibition use
- Far less prone to causing friction burns than artificial ropes
- Lovely natural smell of horses or unpleasant natural smell of horses!
Fitness climbing ropes. Barrier ropes. Theatre hauling
lines. Handrail ropes. Parrot perches.