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EAST ROPERY, FORMERLY SPINNING HOUSE (S 132), AND ATTACHED RETAINING WALLS

List Entry Summary

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

Name: EAST ROPERY, FORMERLY SPINNING HOUSE (S 132), AND ATTACHED RETAINING WALLS

List entry Number: 1388400

Location

EAST ROPERY, FORMERLY SPINNING HOUSE (S 132), AND ATTACHED RETAINING WALLS, SOUTH YARD

The building may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:

District: City of Plymouth

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish:

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: I

Date first listed: 13-Aug-1999

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Feb-2011

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: LBS

UID: 476411

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Building

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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History

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Details



740-1/98/227 SOUTH YARD 13-AUG-1999 DEVONPORT DOCKYARD EAST ROPERY, FORMERLY SPINNING HOUSE ( S 132), AND ATTACHED RETAINING WALLS (Formerly listed as: SOUTH YARD DEVONPORT DOCKYARD SPINNING HOUSE (S 132) AND ATTACHED RE TAINING WALLS)

I Spinning house (S132), renamed East Ropery in 1815, now a store. Constructed 1763-71, but was gutted by fire in 1812. It was rebuilt in 1813-17 to the designs of Edward Holl, architect to the Navy Board. The building was reduced in length at its northern end following bomb damage in 1941.

MATERIALS: It is built of random limestone rubble with limestone ashlar dressings under a pitched roof clad in corrugated metal sheeting. The south gable end is rendered, while the truncated north end which has been closed off with concrete block is clad with metal sheeting. The window openings have cast-iron frames with panelled shutters of either iron or timber, of which the latter are replacements, to the lower section and small panes of clear glazing above. The external steel escape stairs are not of interest. Internally, the building has a fireproof iron frame and roof trusses.

PLAN: It has a linear, rectangular open plan, though the last five bays at the southern end have a slightly wider footprint than the rest of the building.

EXTERIOR: A 57-bay range of three storeys with cellars. The building has a plinth, rusticated quoins, moulded eaves cornice and a coped south gable, with plain surrounds to the openings. Both the west and east elevations have a largely symmetrical arrangement of window openings with segmental-arched stone surrounds and iron frames of small panes. There are also a number of additional openings, some of which are blocked, that are understood to have formerly enabled the transfer of twine between the spinning house and the adjacent laying house (largely demolished), and the tarred yarn stores. At the southern end of the east elevation is a corrugated metal lean-to marks the position of the former engine house. At irregular intervals along the west and east elevations are doorways, including several former taking-in doors with hoist platforms. The south gable end has a wide segmental-headed entrance with wooden double doors to the lower left side; three symmetrically-arranged windows to the first and second floors; and an oculus in the gable. A brick-lined, arched passageway runs beneath the central part of the building, and a second lies immediately to the north of the north end.

INTERIOR: The building retains its fireproof internal frame comprising a central aisle of cast-iron columns connected vertically by spigots, supporting T-section transverse beams with curved upper web and spanner ends meeting over the columns, and joists slotted into the sides. Most of the floors are York stone slabs which were used to reduce the risk of a fire. Some fittings related to rope-making survive, including iron pulley wheels, transmission brackets, and iron guide rails. The roof structure is a mixture of cast iron in compression for the principal rafters and the cruciform diagonal struts, and wrought iron in tension forming the round-section king and queen struts and square-section ties. These extend both transversely between the principals and longitudinally along the centre of the building.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: Rubble retaining walls extend approximately 90m to the south-east side in three sections formed by a ramp leading down to the tunnels beneath the East Ropery.

HISTORY: The importance of Plymouth as a base for English fleets in the Western Approaches was recognised in the late C17, and the construction of a dockyard was instigated by William III. A ropeyard was laid out in the 1690s, on an east-west axis along the southern side of the dockyard. The various stages involved in rope production required a number of separate buildings with different functions, and the ropeyard or ropery was thus designed to facilitate efficient production and formed a distinct part of the dockyard. The processes of spinning hemp into twine and the laying of rope took place in separate spinning and laying houses (the most distinctive parts of the ropery) at Devonport.

During the remodelling of the dockyard in the mid-C18, new ropeyard buildings, including twin spinning and laying houses, were erected on the eastern boundary of the enlarged dockyard. After the spinning house was gutted by fire in 1812 plans were drawn up by Edward Holl, the Navy Board architect, to 'restore' the ropery, using cast and wrought iron in place of timber, with stone flagged floors. The new spinning house, which was re-named the East Ropery in 1815, appears to have been largely completed by late 1817, at which time it was considered one of the largest fireproof buildings in the country. Rope production continued until 1941. During World War II, as a result of bomb damage, the laying house was reduced to only its foundations and the spinning house to the east was shortened by almost a third at its northern end. Between 1945 and 1969 the Spinning House served as a training centre for shipwright apprentices; it is now used partly for storage, though much of the building is unoccupied.

SOURCES Unicorn Consultancy: Historic Structure Quadrennial Inspection - The East Ropery, Spinning House, South Yard, HM Naval Base Devonport, Plymouth (1999) Unicorn Consultancy, HM Naval Base Devonport - Feasibility Study for the Re-Use of Building S132 - East Ropery: Plymouth (1996) Faulkner K, Fireproof Mills - The Widening Perspective (1993), Industrial Archaeology Review, pp 16-17 N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Devon (1989), pp. 652 Coad J, The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850 (1989), pp. 199-203 Holl E, Plans of the Spinning House, (1811) ADM 140/267

REASON FOR DESIGNATION: The East Ropery, South Yard, Devonport Naval Dockyard is designated at Grade I, for the following principal reasons:

* Architecture: a highly significant example of early-C19 industrial architecture which, despite the loss of its northern section, is remarkably well-preserved * Design: of particular note for its internal fire-proof frame and roof trusses which represent an early and pioneering example of this type of construction * Rarity: a rare and outstanding survival of a specialist rope-spinning house in the context of a naval dockyard, as well as being important in terms of its level of intactness * Historic Interest: it is an integral part of the naval dockyard at Devonport and forms a cogent grouping with the associated ropery buildings, as well as other dockyard buildings in South Yard



Selected Sources

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National Grid Reference: SX 45188 54215

Map

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End of official listing