“Dawe’s Twineworks in West Coker, Somerset, is said to be the only surviving rural twineworks with its original Victorian twine-making machinery in place. The Coker Rope & Sail Trust exists to preserve and restore the works, and to record and celebrate the flax and hemp based industries (twine, rope and sailcloth) which were once dominant in south Somerset and west Dorset.”
That’s taken from the handy info leaflet.
It’s open for visitors on the 4th Saturday of each month, tucked off the side of the A30 on the west side of the village. There’s more info here.
There’s a long (very long) shed, open at the sides, and a bunch of outbuildings which don’t look very exciting at first.
Everyone was friendly and full of information. It’s full of lovely rusty old kit and remnants of it’s past. Fabulous if you like poking around old sheds (and have a historical textile bent). It’s an ongoing restoration project.
The upper floor of the ropewalk is where they twisted the yarn (spun from the processed flax in local cottages) into twine.
On the ground floor the twine was treated (with stinky size made from boiled animal fat and bones made on site) and finished. The size stops the twine rotting.
These troughs were filled with water to wash the twine, with the size (in the first section).
Grooved drums kept the twine untangled and ran along the walk on rails to maintain tension.
The volunteers have found lots of odd pieces of twine stashed away around the building which shows no sign of rotting.
West Coker specialised in twine. Another works (Gould’s & Son) only closed recently and Dawe’s acquired the archive.
There are sample cards with dozens of very specific types of yarn (parcelling and mattress twine a speciality).
This archive fills a whole room – a real, proper time warp.
Probably best of all are these workbooks – one woman’s lists, week by week, of work done.
Women were employed to wind the twine into balls on special machines. Apparently they could make a ball a minute!
Not so much a museum as a place lost in time.