The Museum

The Museum

Des-Pawson-museumThe Museum of Knots and Sailors’ Ropework is open by appointment to those interested in this area of overlooked craftsmanship. Opened in 1996, it is crammed full of interesting items, it is the largest display on the subject in the UK.

We believe that the world should recognise the art and skill of knots and ‘sailors’ ropework’. Such items that have often not been valued or exhibited by museums. For many years we have collected old and recent ropework and ropeworking tools. We also have some interesting examples of the ropemaker’s art. We hope to encourage greater awareness by creating this setting to properly display our collection.

Current displays

Des-Pawson-museum-2Currently on display are a good selection of sailors’ sea chest handles, blackjacks, knives with ropework handles, walking sticks and a shaving brush all from the last century, sennit rope mats from 50 years ago many and varied examples of rope fenders and modern examples of knotwork from a dozen or so countries.

Examples of the ropemaker’s art range from a 28inch circumference piece of cable from H.M.S. Victory to cordage from paper and lime bast and horse hair, as well as tapered skipping ropes and animal halters. Tools for working with rope and canvas vary from a whalebone fid to the most modern tools for splicing hi-tech yacht ropes. There is a reserve collection for those who wish to study any aspect to even greater depth. It is also possible to access Des Pawson’s unique library on all aspects of knots and ropework.

Ann Chalkley sent these two panoramic views of the Museum because of the way they are made they just give an impression perhaps you should come & visit

Mainly ropemaking


The original part with Ropework, tools etc


The Museum in the Future.

We have secured the future of the collection. Over the next 2-3 years the collection will slowly be transferred to Chatham Historic Dockyard.We believe that this transfer  will mean that our collection will have a long term future. After items have been through a quarantine period they will be catalogued which includes freezing all organic materials – conserved, catalogued, photographed and packed for storage, and digitised for the online collection for the public to access online and will be available for research upon request . Currently there is still a great deal still in Ipswich so visitors here are still welcome by appointment . The collection will be saved for the future. It is hard to say good bye, but happy that they will be looked after well and seen by many more over the years. Still plenty of research to be done as well.

The Museum in the press

The Museum of Knots and Sailors’ Ropework has been featured in The Daily Telegraph and on Collectors Lot on Channel 4, together with good mentions in Wooden Boat Magazine (USA.), and Australian Sailing Magazine amongst others. This coverage has bought us visitors from all parts of the world. We believe that museums should be free, so all we ask is that you sign our visitors’ book.

You can see more of our museum’s collection on the Maritime Heritage East website which covers Museums with maritime collections in East Anglia.

Des Has made two films with the Social History Curators Group,  explaining how some of the tools in the Museums collection are used:

Rope Working and Rigging

Sail, Sack and Canvas Working

Classic Sailor have just made a film based on a visit