At Marlow Ropes we are always looking to the future with innovation and development - the two adverts above show Marlow at the forefront of rope technology with polyester yacht ropes in 1957, and today with our Grand Prix Series range. However, we never forget our rich and proud heritage and whilst Marlow Ropes Ltd was originally set up as recently as 1961, the story of the Company and the intertwined history of rope making in Hailsham goes back over 200 years.
In 1807 Thomas Burfield founded his rope company in Hailsham, East Sussex - the present day Marlow factory still manufactures rope on Burfield's original site. In those days however, Burfield made ropes from "soft" natural fibres, not only hemps imported from Europe and India but also Cannabis!
In 1830 George Green, an employee of Burfield's, left to set up a rival factory across town called Green Brothers, making similar products but servicing mainly local industry.
Later that centuary in 1881, George Hawkins and Alfred Tipson founded Hawkins and Tipson in Millwall on the Isle of Dogs, London. Hawkins and Tipson made ropes mainly for the maritime industry from "hard" natural fibres such as manila and sisal.
Hawkins and Tipson went from strength to strength, rapidly expanding it's operations, thanks in part to a shortage of Manila fibre during the Spanish American war in 1898, which the Company foresaw and profited from.
In 1941 and 1953 respectively, Hawkins and Tipson bought Green Brothers and Burfield & Sons in Hailsham. The purpose of these acquisitions being to provide land and capacity for the expanding Hawkins and Tipson Ltd.
At this time rope manufacture was still dominated by natural fibres such as hemp, manila and sisal. However, by early 1950's the "new" synthetic fibres of Nylon (polyamide) and Terylene (polyester) were becoming more widely used in industry and Hawkins and Tipson were among the first to realise their potential in rope making
In 1957 Hawkins and Tipson started manufacturing and selling synthetic fibre ropes, made in Hailsham, to the yachting industry under the "Marlow" brand. These new nylon and polyester ropes were ideal for the demands of the re-emerging yachting industry which was just recovering after World War II. The success of the Marlow brand led to the founding of Marlow Ropes Ltd in 1961, as part of the ever expanding Hawkins and Tipson empire, with the express purpose of manufacturing synthetic fibre ropes for the yachting market..
During the 1960's Marlow Ropes very soon become internationally know in the yachting industry and leaders in the field. Yachtsmen around the world replaced their traditional 3 strand hemp ropes with braided nylon and polyester ropes manufactured by Marlow in Hailsham.
The 1970's, saw Marlow Ropes (now the synthetic fibre arm of Hawkins and Tipson) moving from strength to strength, further asserting it's dominance in the yachting industry with innovative products such as Marlowbraid. However, it also extended it's operations into polyester ropes and slings for civil engineering projects and other general lifting work for land and marine use.
CHANGE AND GROWTH
As the use of natural fibres declined in the heavy marine industry, Marlow, who also extruded their own raw materials in Hailsham, grew in it's reach and product portfolio. They soon became the dominant company within the group and by 1983 Hawkins and Tipson (now under new ownership) was restructured, becoming known as H&T Marlow and subsequently simply Marlow Ropes Ltd.
Marlow Ropes continued to lead the way in technical innovation and together with further expansion in the 1990's the Company re-affirmed it's position as one of the dominant forces in rope manufacture world wide. The Marlow brand was renowned and respected in markets around the world from yachting ropes to military ropes and commercial mooring ropes to deep sea tethers for oil platforms.
By 2003, after a number of acquisitions, Marlow Ropes was a world leader in the design and manufacture of deep water tethers and mooring points for the oil industry as well as continuing to be the most globally recognised rope brand in the yachting industry. The Company was manufacturing on three sites in the UK and also owned a climbing rope company in Germany.
At the end of 2005 however, the Company was split up and sold off to separate buyers. The Marlow Cordage Division was bought by the owner of Marlow's one time UK competitor, English Braids, who retained the name Marlow Ropes Ltd.
Today, Marlow Ropes has a brand new purpose built factory and warehouse and continues to manufacture quality British ropes on the same site as Thomas Burfield over 200 years ago. Times have changed however and today Marlow specialises in the design and manufacture of technically innovative rope products using the very latest hi-tech and exotic man made fibres.
Marlow Ropes' reputation for quality and technical innovation continues in the 21st Century and the Company continues to forge a path of progress and growth in the markets in which it operates:
• Leisure Marine
• Defence & Special Forces
• Winching & wire rope replacement
• Fire & Rescue
• Work Safety & Industrial Access
• Cabling & Telecoms
• Film & Theatre Rigging
For more information about Marlow Ropes past, present or future, contact our offices on +44 (0) 1323 444444 or email