1800 – 1850 Foundations
The foundation of a ‘modern’ rope works, with permanent buildings and the characteristic ‘walk’ occurred sometime between 1800 and 1803 when Thomas Hall and his son William purchased land on the east side of Barton’s Haven. Almost immediately, and certainly by 1802, the business and land was transferred to John Hall, Thomas’s eldest son and William’s brother. Born in 1775, John was still a young man, but one with a wealth of nautical and trading experience. Having become the successful master of one of the family’s ships in 1796 he was willing to explore markets not usually exploited by Hull’s merchants, such as those in the West Indies. However, his main trading links focused on the Baltic ports, and along with many other members of Hull’s merchant community, he was quick to exploit the growing whaling industry. In 1804, one of John’s ships brought home a record whaling catch, which was never surpassed in the forty or so years the industry remained active in Hull.
It was John Hall who began the development of rope making in earnest, and in 1808 he filed a patent for an improvement in the process. This was during a period in which technological innovation in rope making was developing quickly, and technical pioneers were becoming very wealthy men. Throughout his lifetime John invested capital in the rope works, and aligned his shipping interests to serve it. Indeed, in 1852 it was noted in the Stamford Mercury (in one of the few instances when the rope works is mentioned) that John Hall had undertaken to deepen the Haven so as to let boats unload easier at his works. As the nineteenth century progressed, the rope works expanded steadily. Gas lighting was introduced, and sometime before 1851, steam power was first used at the site. This development did not go unnoticed by the first generation of Barton’s historians, such as Charles Henry Ball and William Hesleden, who mentioned the rope works in their accounts of the town written during the 1850s. In no uncertain terms they ascribed the rope works the role of both major employer, technical innovator, and importantly, a main factor in the development of Barton as an industrial town.