A quote from "The Story of Belfast" by Mary Lowry (circa 1913)
"The Belfast Ropeworks Company is known over the world, not only as being
the largest in existence, but also for the variety and excellence of its products. It now covers an extent of
thirty-four acres, and gives employment to many thousands. Until the year 1740, all cordage was imported from
England, then a ropemaking place was commenced by John McCracken in the year 1758.
John Street was in 1800 known as the old Rope Walk. This street was
absorbed in Royal Avenue, and was swept away when the new thoroughfare was opened. Thomas Ekenhead was for many
years the principal ropemaker in Belfast. His private residence is now a bonded store in Donegall Quay. It was once
considered to be a very fine house, and at that time was at the edge of the river, with a lovely prospect of green
fields and trees, and an uninterrupted view as far as the Holywood hills. Thomas Ekenhead died of cholera in 1832.
His brother, Captain Ekenhead, swam across the Hellespont with Lord Byron, which is mentioned in "Hero and Leander"
in the lines where he tells of the reckless lover who swam across the dividing waters. "Leander, Mr. Ekenhead and I
did." Their sister Mrs. Dummitt, built and endowed the Ekenhead Church in memory of her brother Thomas. She also
founded a scholarship in Trinity College for lads from County Down.
Then in later years we find the Belfast Ropeworks Company has made a
marvellous business. Every kind of rope and cord that is possible, from the heaviest cable to the finest twine, is
made here. Another most interesting branch of the work is making fishing nets, which have to be made by hand. The
firm turns out one hundred tons of rope and twine every week, and gives employment to 3,600 workers. When visiting
the place the machines for winding the cord into balls are well worth special attention, as it is done so quickly
and neatly, and all the work is finished in the most perfect manner."
To download a PDF of The Belfast Ropework Company's catalogue, which features some great
photographs and history, CLICK
Other useful links:
Grace's Guide - 1930 Industrial Britain: Belfast Ropework Co
Belfast Forum - Old photos - Belfast Ropeworks
Wikipedia - Gustav Wilhelm Wolff - Founder of Belfast Ropeworks