Rope Maker of Reckleford
Making rope and twine, and the associated trades of manufacturing webbing and sacking, was established centuries ago in Yeovil and continued into the twentieth century. Common natural fibres used in rope making were manila hemp, hemp, linen, cotton, coir, jute, straw, and sisal. As early as 1587 the Woborn Muniments recorded William Beacham as a Sackwever at the Dye House and in 1622 the Muniments recorded John Beacham, presumably William's son, continuing as a Sack Weaver at the Dye House. A deed dated 1678 recorded John Jacob as a Roper and a similar deed dated 1705 recorded John Newman as a Roper.
The Yeovil Poll Book of 1733 listed William Nail [Neal] as a Roper of Wigdon & Huntley (today's Yeovil Marsh) and, according to their accounts, the Churchwardens bought ropes from William Neal, described as a Roper, in 1790. This was presumably the son of the William of Wigdon & Huntley. This same year of 1790 William was listed as a Roper in the Universal British Directory.
This crest appears on a memorial on the east wall of the south transept of St John's church, to John Neal who died in 1847, aged 65. There is also a memorial window in the church to William Neal, who died in 1834 aged 62 and is believed to be John's father. The arms were paly of six argent and azure, on a bend gules, a greyhound's head erased between two dexter hands couped at the wrist argent (on a field of silver and blue divided perpendicularly, a diagonal red stripe with a silver greyhound's head, violently torn off, between two silver left hands cut straight across the wrist).
John Neal was born around 1778 and is recorded as supplying ropes to St John's church, from 1805 until 1836. John Neal is referred to in the Churchwarden's Accounts variously as a Rope Maker, Rope Manufacturer and Rope Supplier. He also served as a Churchwarden himself in 1811, 1812 and 1816.
He was recorded as a Sack, Sacking & Twine Manufacturer in Pigot's 1824 Directory and as a Sacking Manufacturer in Pigot's Directory of 1830. Neal's rope works were in Reckleford on the south side of today's Reckleford, opposite Goldcroft, and his property is shown on Watts' map of 1806 below at which time the rope-walk was presumably of the open air type.
By the time of Watt’s later map of 1831 (also seen below) a covered rope-walk is shown running parallel to Reckleford with what looks like a second covered rope-walk at right angles as well as other associated buildings. John Neal was listed in the Poll Books of 1832, 1834 and 1846 by virtue of owning the freehold house in Reckleford in which he lived.
William and his wife Mary had at least three children; William the son and heir and two daughters - Elizabeth and Mary Ann. Mary Ann was to become the wife of Frederick Greenham who, with William Neal, was John's executor. Frederick and Mary Ann lived in Hendford House (today's Manor Hotel).
In the 1841 census John Neale, by now aged 63, was living with his wife Mary, aged 63, in Rotten Row (today's Market Street) although since his property was on the corner of both Reckleford and Market Street he probably was still in the same house. John listed his occupation as being of independent means.
John Neal died at the beginning of 1847 and his will, dated 1844, was proved in London on 15 February 1847.
A rope-walk was a long straight narrow lane or a covered pathway, where long strands of material were laid before being twisted into rope. Ropewalks historically were harsh sweatshops, and frequently caught on fire, as hemp dust forms an explosive mixture. In 1848 John Neal's rope factory was destroyed by fire. The site of the rope works was built on by William Tucker in the 1890s and became Salisbury Terrace.
The last Will and Testament of John Neal
This is the last Will and Testament of me John Neal of Yeovil in the County of Somerset Esquire I give and devise my pew in the North middle range in Yeovil church numbered 71 unto my wife Mary Neil for and during the term of her natural life in case she shall so long continue my widow and occupy the same and subject thereto I give and devise the same unto my son William Neal his heirs and assigns for ever I give and to devise my pew in the South middle range in Yeovil Church numbered 106 and my pew in the south range in the same church numbered 143 onto my daughter Mary Ann the wife of Frederick Greenham Esquire her heirs and assigns for ever I give and devise my pew in the new North gallery numbered 20 and my two sittings in the old North gallery numbered 23 and 24 all in the same Church unto my daughter Elizabeth Neal her heirs and assigns for ever I give and devise the several messuages or tenements with the yards gardens Barnes stables and other outhouses thereto respectively belonging situate in the Parish of Eltham in the County of Kent formerly the property of John Evis Robert Evis and Sarah Evis or one of them and conveyed to me by certain Indentures of Lease and Release bearing date on or about the twenty first and twenty second days of April one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine and all and singular other the premises comprised in and conveyed by such Indentures unto and to the use of my son William Neal his heirs and assigns for ever I give device and bequeath the portion of the dwelling house in which I reside which was occupied by the late Mr Chapman and the garden and other appurtenances as behind the same and the household goods and furniture and other effects of a like sort in kind which shall be therein at the time of mighty cease and usually used there with unto my said wife Mary Neil for and during the term of her natural life in case she shall so long continue my widow upon the express condition that she resides therein and occupies the same and subject to my said wife's estate and interest therein I give devise and bequeath the same unto my said son William and Neal his heirs executors administrators and assigns I give and devise all the residue of my messuages tenements lands and hereditaments of whatsoever tenure they may be and wheresoever situate including my Pew in the North middle range in Yeovil Church numbered 72 and by two sittings in the pew in the South Transept in the same Church numbered 157 unto my said son William Neal his heirs executors administrators and assigns for all my a state and interest therein upon the express condition that he so keep the portion of the said dwellinghouse so devised to my said wife with the buildings belonging to the same in good and tenantable repair and do charge all the rates and taxes payable in respect of the same surety the continuance of my said wife's estate and interest therein ideas and bequeath my wearing apparel answer my said Wife absolutely I give and bequeath all the wines and other liquors of which I shall be possessed at the time of mighty cease unto my wife Mary Neil and my son William Neal their executors administrators and assigns in equal shares I give and bequeath all my household goods and furniture books plate limb in China and other effects of a like sort and which shall be in and about the remaining portion of my said dwellinghouse and the outhouse thereto belonging at the time of my decease and usually occupied there with unto my said son William Neal his executors administrators and assigns I give and bequeath to my said wife the sum of two hundred pounds of lawful British money and I direct that the same shall be paid to her immediately after my decease I give and bequeath to Charlotte Adams of Sherborne in the County of Dorset Spinster the sum of one hundred pounds of like lawful money over and above the legall duty payable thereon I give and bequeath to John [word illegible] of the City of London Merchant the sum of fifty pounds of like lawful money over and above the legall duty payable thereon I give and bequeath to my servant Ann [word illegible] the sum of fifty pounds of like lawful money over and above the legall duty payable thereon I give and bequeath to my servant Jane Andrews the sum of forty pounds of like lawful money over and above the legall duty payable thereon I give and bequeath to my [word illegible] William Hodder the sum of four pounds of like lawful money and I direct that the said five legacies of one hundred pounds fifty pounds fifty pounds forty pounds and ten pounds shall be paid within three months next after my decease I give and bequeath to Susan Read of Blandford in the County of Dorset Widow and an annuity of £10 for her life to comments from my death and be payable half yearly without deduction with a proportionable part thereof up to the day of her decease I give and bequeath to my said son William Neal and to the said Frederick Greenham their executors administrators and assigns in [infill] all my Personal Estate whatsoever and of what nature or kind soever not hereinbefore specifically disposed of upon trust that they my said trustees or trustee for the time being do and shall with all [consement ?] Speed after my decease cell dispose of and convert into money so much thereof as shall be in its nature saleable and in such manner as they or he shall in their or his discretion think fit and also collect get in and receive the residue thereof and with and out of the said monies pay satisfy and discharge all my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses and the aforesaid legacies and lay out and invest the residue of the said monies after answering the purposes aforesaid in their or his names or name in the Parliamentary stocks or public funds of Great Britain or at interest upon Government or real securities and from time to time after vary and transpose the same trust monies stocks funds and securities for or into other stocks funds or securities of the like nature when and so often as they or he shall think fit and I direct that the said trustees or trustee for the time being shall stand possessed of and interested in the said residue of the said monies and the stocks funds and securities upon which the same shall be invested and the interest dividends and annual produce thereof upon and for the trusts intents and purposes hereinafter expressed of and concerning the same that is to say upon trust in the first place to pay the said an annuity of ten pounds hereinbefore given to the said Susan Read and subject thereto upon trust to pay the said interest dividends and annual produce unto or permit the same to be received and taken by my said wife during her life in case she shall so long continue my widow and upon trust after the exploration of three months next after the decease or second marriage of my said wife to pay to my nephew John Payne the son of my sister Jayne Payne the sum of three hundred pounds of lawful British money and to my niece Mary Ann the wife of Mr Thomas C Hayward of the [word illegible] in the city of London Canvas and Twine Agent the like sum of three hundred pounds and to my niece Elizabeth Trudgett wife of John Trudgett of Hackney Road in the said City of London the like sum of three hundred pounds to whom I do hereby give and bequeath the same respectively and subject to the said an annuity of ten pounds upon trust to pay assign or transfer the residue of the said trust monies stocks funds and securities onto my daughters Mary Ann Greenham and Elizabeth Neal and their respective executors administrators and assigns in equal shares and proportions I do hereby declare it to be my Will that if either of my children shall die in my lifetime leaving a husband or widow living at my death or if either of my children shall die in my lifetime leaving a child or children living at the time of my decease then the property which would have belonged to the child of mine so dying if such child had survived me shall go and belong to such person or persons as at the time of my decease would be entitled thereto in case such child so dying had survived me and afterwards died intestate I give devise and bequeath all the estates vested in me on any trusts or by way of mortgage and which I have power to dispose of buy this my Will with the appurtenances unto the said William Neal and Frederick Greenham their heirs executors administrators and assigns according to the nature and quality thereof respectively upon trust to hold all dispose of the said trust estates in the manner in which they ought to be held or disposed of pursuant to the said trusts and upon payment of the money secured on mortgage to convey or assign the estates in mortgage to the person or persons entitled thereto for the time being and I declare that the money secured upon such mortgages shall be considered and taken as part of my personal estate and be held and disposed of accordingly And I appoint the said William Neal and Frederick Greenham executors in trust of this my last Will and Testament provided always and I hereby declare that the receipt of the said William Neal and Frederick Greenham and of other the trustees and trustee for the time being of this my Will shall be a good discharge for all moneys which in such receipt shall be expressed to be received and that all persons paying any monies to them or him for the purposes of this my Will and taking a receipt from them or him accordingly shall not be obliged to see to the further application of the same monies nor be accountable for the misapplication thereof I empower the trustees or trustee for the time being of my Will if any or if none the executors or administrators of the last deceased trustee with the consent of my said daughters during their joint lives and after the decease of one of them with the consent of the survivor of them to be signified by some writing or writings and their or her hands and seals or hand and seal and after the decease of such survivor then at and of the proper discretion and authority of such trustees or trustee or of the executors or administrators of such last deceased trustee to nominate in writing any person or persons to supply the place of any trustee or trustees of my Will who shall die disclaimer or become unwilling or unable to act when and so often as a vacancy or vacancies shall occur and on every such appointment the necessary assurances shall be executed for vesting my trust estate in the new and old trustees or the new trustees solely as the case may be And I absolve the trustees and trustee for the time being of my Will from responsibility for the receipts and defaults of each other and for in voluntary losses and also authorize such trustees and trustee to retain and allow to each other all expenses incurred in or about the execution of the trusts of my Will In Witness whereof I the said John Neal to this my last Will and Testament contained in four sheets have set my hand that is to say at the foot of each of the first three sheets thereof and at the end of this last sheet thereof this twentieth day of December one thousand eight hundred and forty four - John Neal - the writing contained in this and the three preceding sheets of paper was signed by the said testator in the presence of us present at the same time who in his presence and at his request have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses John Slade Sol[icitor] Yeovil - SH Hammond his Clerk
This is a Codicil to the last Will and Testament of me John Neal of Yeovil in the County of Somerset Esquire bearing date on or about the twentieth day of September one thousand eight hundred and forty four I give and bequeath to my wife Mary Neal a legacy of one hundred pounds sterling in addition to the provision made for her in and buy my said Will and to be paid to her within three months next after my decease And I hereby expressly charge the said legacy of one hundred pounds upon the freehold hereditaments and premises by my said Will devised to my son William Neal index collusion and exoneration of my personal estate And in all other respects I hereby ratify and confirm my said Will In Witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my hand this first day of May one thousand eight hundred and forty six - John Neal - signed by the above named John Neal as and for a Codicil to his last Will and Testament in the presence of us who in his presence at his request and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses - John Slade - Benjemin Allen
Proved at London with a Codicil 15th Feb 1847 before the Judge by the oath's of William Neal Esquire the son and Frederick Greenham Esquire the Executors to whom Admon was granted having been first sworn by Commission duly to Administer
Transcribed by Bob Osborn
E Watts' map of 1806 shows Reckleford running across the top while Rackleford (today's market Street) runs from it down to the bottom left corner. The large corner site annotated 'Mr Neal' at this time referred to John Neal, the son of William Neal.
E Watts' later map of 1831 shows that, by this time, John Neal had constructed a covered rope-walk running parallel to Reckleford (most likely replacing an earlier open-air rope-walk) with possibly a second rope-walk and other associated buildings at right angles to it.
Although not in Yeovil, this photograph dates to around 1900 and illustrates a typical open air rope walk.
An illustration of a covered ropewalk - actually Dawe's ropewalk, West Coker. Photographed around 1980.
The memorial to John Neal in St John's church.
The inscription of the above memorial.