The Growing and processing of flax and hemp in the Isle of Axholme has been an important industry for a long time. In her paper ‘The Isle of Axholme before Vermuyden’ , Joan Thirsk describes how the importance of the industry was underlined by local probate inventories. Flax and hemp laid the foundations for a comparatively large scale domestic industry of spinning and weaving. The probate inventories show that the flourishing sack and canvas making industry of Axholme in the nineteenth century had a long history behind it. To the average peasant family of the sixteenth century it was profitable by-employment whereas to the poor it was one of the principal ways of earning a living.
One of the victories won by the inhabitants of Axholme in their prolonged legal battle with Vermuyden was an award in 1636 of £400 for a stock to employ the poor in the making of sackcloth to compensate them for the loss of fishing and fowling rights. In the mid-nineteenth century, the domestic industry gave way to steam flax mills, though this was relatively short-lived as by 1900 the industry had died out, only to have a partial revival during World War I.
In 1744 there was a dreadful fire in Haxey that burnt down 62 houses. The fire commenced in a flax manufactory near the Church and is supposed to have been the act of arson. A few days before the master of the manufactory discharged one of his men for misconduct who let fall some vindictive expressions He was committed to Lincoln Castle on suspicion but as no further evidence could be brought against him he was of course acquitted at the next Assizes.
The retted plants were then laid out in a field to dry so that they could then be further processed through the following steps;
The ‘Retting Pits’ Project is part of the Heritage Lottery Funded IOAHC partnership and has a number of objectives.
- Retting Pits
- Mills and processing facilities
- Rope walks etc.
- Core samples for pollen analysis
- Excavation of retting pit
- Grow flax and hemp
- Process flax and hemp
- Spin and weave flax & hemp into sackcloth and linen
Team Wildscape might also be helping out with the coring of retting pits so watch this space for more details!