A little detour brought my journey to a quiet sleepy little village called Oudewater, in the province of Utrecht. 

One of the two museums listed to visit was Het Touwmuseum Oudewater

Het Touwmuseum Oudewater is a Rope Museum started in 2001, founded in the old barn where hemp, yarn and spinning tops used to be stored since 1675. 

Oudewater has always been a rope town, producing rope from hemp since the 16th century. And no, it is not the same type of hemp that can be smoked.

The development of Oudewater as a rope town was possible because the city was surrounded by areas where hemp was grown. Hemp cultivation reached its peak in the 17th century. In 1672, there were 37 coarse yarn roperies and 33 other companies. 

During this period, the high demand for fine yarns was the raw material for fishing nets. The great need for larger or coarser yarn was processed into rope to be used on the warships of the Dutch East India Company. The rope produced in this town was of the highest quality. 

The inhabitants of Oudewater have been referred to as “yellow bellies”. This nickname refers to the bundles of yellow hemp which wrapped around their bellies whenever the ropemakers worked on spinning the twisted yellow hemp fibre line on their ropewalk, before twinning the threads to yarns. Twined yarns were the main end product of the dozens of roperies in Oudewater. 

The largest rope factory in the Netherlands can still be found in this small town. Established around 1545, the “Touwfabriek G. van der Lee” or the G. van der Lee Rope Factory was the oldest family business in the Netherlands until it became part of the Hendrik Veder Group in 2013. 

In Het Touwmuseum Oudewater, visitors will be able to learn all kinds of things about rope. 

Many original and historical attributes are included in this small museum exhibition. Most of the signages are in English. There are pictures and drawings showing how a plant is converted into yarn. Check out old tools, types of ropes and what are they used for. Try to differentiate the male “gelling” and the female “saling” hemp plants. Compare other types of ropes made from other materials such as coconut, cotton and banana leaves. Everything about the process of manufacturing rope is clearly depicted here. 

There are also activities on the upper floor for kids; play area, make knots or ask for the museum for a scavenger hunt. A playground is located outside the museum too. 

A visit to Het Touwmuseum Oudewater should last between 30-60 minutes. Never knew that there was so much to know about the history of rope.

The other museum to visit in Oudewater is Museum De Heksenwaag / Museum of the Witches’ Weighing House. More about it on the next blog.

Website: https://touwmuseum.nl
Address: Reijersteeg 4, 3421 SG Oudewater. 
Opening Hours: From 2 June – 31 October. Tues – Sat from 11am – 5pm. Sundays and public holidays from 12 noon – 5pm.
Entrance Fees: €4.00 for adult, €2.00 for kids age 4-12yrs old and free for kids under 4 years old. Free entry for Museumkaart holders. 

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