When did ropemaking begin in Hawes? Perhaps information from local sources may yet come to light to provide an answer.The Wharton family 1841-1905Clear evidence of ropemaking in Hawes begins with the household census returns for 1841 In the first census (1841) in which Thomas Wharton, aged 60, and his sons Richard, 30, and John, 20, (ages were rounded off to the nearest five years) are listed as ropemakers. Information in other census returns suggests it was at least 1830 before the Wharton family moved to Hawes, probably from a neighbouring dale.The Wharton's ropemaking business was based at the Old Toll Bar, later known as the Gate House, which still exists on the outskirts of Hawes leading to Ingleton. The family, including Thomas's wife Mary and youngest children Thomas, 16, and Mary, 15, may have been toll-keepers as well as ropemakers. The ropewalk ran parallel to the toll-road, allowing passers-by to watch the family at work.As well as the regular trade at the fortnightly cattle markets, which until 1919 took place in the main street, extra demand for ropes was created during the special fairs in June, September and October, for horses, cattle and tups (rams) respectively. Every rope made required the labour of two people, one to turn the wheel and the other to lay the rope. (The complete ropemaking process is described on the How rope is made page).By 1851 Thomas had employed a thirteen year old boy, William, as a wheelturner (Electricity now supplies the power formerly provided by an apprentice, who turned the wheel that put twist into the rope) to help John in the manufacturing process. The business also had to support at least four younger members of the Wharton household, including a future ropemaker of the third generation.Following his father's death in 1852 John (1) took over as head of the household and trained his nephew, John (2), Thomas's grandson, as an assistant ropemaker. Having successfully served his apprenticeship John (2) graduated as a journeyman, making way for another of Thomas's grandsons, John (3) to follow the family tradition. At the age of 14, in 1881, the latter was already an assistant ropemaker, eventually succeeding his father John (1) as proprietor of the business at the age of 28.The ropemaking business continued to support John Wharton (3) and his family for a further ten years until, at the age of 38, having spent at least 24 years making rope, he 'retired' and sold the business in order to pursue his profound interest in specialist poultry breeding. His successor, Mr. W.R.A. Outhwaite, took over the ropemaking concern in 1905.(The numbers in the previous paragraph refer to a family tree which will be added shortly.)At this point the story of the Whartons' involvement in ropemaking ends, but as John Wharton remained an important figure in the local community his subsequent history is worth recording. He served as a local councillor, became chairman of Aysgarth Rural District Council and later a Justice of the Peace.From his home at Honeycott, next to the Gate House, he had a commanding view of his own land and the White Wyandotte poultry which had fascinated him for so long. It was his growing success with poultry that allowed him to sell the ropemaking business and concentrate on his hens. As an enthusiast, breeder and judge he travelled as far as Germany exhibiting and judging at shows, not the least of his personal success being as a cup winner at Crystal Palace. His family stayed at home when he travelled abroad but he sent one daughter to Germany in order to learn the language and facilitate business deals.Mr.T.C.(Kit) Calvert of Hawes tells of two local farmers returning to the dale by rail from a trip to Manchester to sell one hundred lambs. Sharing their carriage John Wharton listened to the story of their success until, joining in the conversation, he recounted his own journey - to sell one White Wyandotte cockerel in Germany. When told that this one sale had realised more profit than all one hundred lambs the farmers were, not surprisingly, speechless. No doubt John Wharton's waxed moustache and dignified figure added conviction to this impressive story.In spite of his success abroad he was always pleased to come home. His love of poultry and bees (after which Honeycott was named) was combined with an enthusiasm for trees and flowers; family anniversaries and special occasions were celebrated with tree plantings. His daughter, Mrs. Lilian White, who was born in 1900 recalls her father leaving the house with pocketfuls of snowdrop bulbs which he planted at random on his walks around local lanes.As he grew older and looked back at his business achievements and travels he was left with one ambition. This he fulfilled in 1924 when he travelled from Hawes, across the Atlantic, to see the Rocky Mountains and Niagara Falls. He was away for almost two months and for an all-inclusive price of £208.The Outhwaite Family 1905-1975The origins of the Outhwaite family, to whom John Wharton sold the ropemaking business, can be traced back two hundred and fifty years, during which time there have been several changes in spelling. Over this period Outhwayt, Outhett and Outhwaite have all been recorded in the registers of the family's births, deaths and marriages.John Outhwaite settled at Stalling Busk in the 1730's with his family which included sons John and Thomas. They farmed successfully at Raydaleside and gradually became landowners. The next four generations, including several Johns and Williams, continued this success until the end of the nineteenth century when William Richard Alfred Outhwaite, the great-great-great-great-grandson of the original John, realised that the farm was no longer large enough to support his family. As no suitable farm was available, the alternatives being either too large or too small, 'Billy Dick' moved to Hawes and changed his occupation, taking over the ropemaking business from Johnny 'Roper' Wharton in 1905.Thomas Gardner Outhwaite, the second generation of Outhwaite ropemakers, was born into this community at Lancaster Terrace, Hawes, in 1911, the whole family moving to the Gate House in 1912.The Whartons had practised the ropemaking business from its Gate House site on the Ingleton road, and it was here that W.R.Outhwaite made ropes until about 1922. He also had a regular stand in Hawes market where his first Tuesday's trading brought in only 3s. 9d (18 1/2p), but the second a more satisfactory £5.The railway had made a significant difference to trade in the area during the final quarter of the nineteenth century, but Mr. Outhwaite still travelled to Kettlewell once a year by pony and cart with a load of ropes. By staying the night with relatives at Stalling Busk he was able to make the journey over Stake Pass into Wharfedale and return to Stalling Busk in one day. There he was met by Tom and his sister. The success of this annual venture was measured, naturally, by the reduced load in the cart.The period of the First World War saw the beginning of the changes which the twentieth century brought to Hawes. Mr. John Blythe of Hawes, who was a young man at this time, describes the war years as a period when:
W.R.Outhwaite and Son, Ropemakers now makes braid and cord as well as rope, using more modern machinery, These differing constructions of fibres enable products to be made in Hawes which provide for many needs, including those of children, the household, work, travel, handicrafts and leisure as well as the traditional equestrian and farming markets.