The Ipswich Society Newsletter Issue 204 [July 2016] carried an invitation to celebrate the 20 years of the Museum’s existence in Ipswich. The long term future of the collection has needed to be considered for a long time. In 2012, at a meeting of the Maritime Curators Group, I was challenged with the question ‘What is your succession plan?’, and took the opportunity to talk to the director of Chatham Historic Dockyard, who was at the meeting, raising the possibility that it might find a long-term home at Chatham.

The Alladin's cave of the Museum of Knots & Sailor's Ropework

Since then it has been a long and frustrating journey, with three failed funding applications, but finally an agreement to fund the whole collection’s move and its future care, has been reached. Over the next three years the collection will gradually be moved to Chatham, where it will be quarantined, catalogued and digitised, with proper provision made for the storage  and relatively easy accessibility for researchers and other interested bodies, both at Chatham and digitally, in much the same way that their HMS Invincible collection has been dealt with.   

Before the move of the collection, Ipswich Maritime Trust took the opportunity to create, as their 17th Window Museum display, a special exhibition: ‘A Selection from the Collection of the Museum of Knots & Sailor’s Ropework’.

The actual move to Chatham has been a slow affair with the first 100 items being delivered in November 2018. The conversion of the Fitted Rigging House to the new offices of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, conservation department, library and research facility has delayed matters, indeed there are still problems and delays, but the next batch went on June 28 2019 and another went on the 6 August.  After this, I hope that things will speed up. Between the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust & myself there is a desire that the items and all that I know about them is properly preserved. This, in itself, is proving to be an interesting exercise as I have to put myself in the position of recording knowledge that I would normally take for granted.   

I expect to continue to research and write on this whole area, producing further monographs and expanding those already produced as information comes to hand.

Meanwhile there is still a great deal more to see than if you had visited in the early years; so, perhaps until the end of 2019, if you wish to visit us you can arrange an appointment by contacting me either by e-mail ( or phone 01473 690090 and we can work out a mutually agreed day & time.

Des Pawson MBE


Des and Liz Pawson