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The hydraulic system

The wheel as the factory’s driving force:

The hydraulic wheel was invented in order to harness the force of the river current.

The one at the Vallois Rope Factory is a “Poncelet wheel” with curved blades, which produces twenty horsepower.

The energy needed for the machines to operate is provided by this so-called “undershot” wheel, as it is driven by the flow of the river without relying on a waterfall. In fact, it is the steady flow and gentle slope that provide the energy and amount of water needed for its operation.

An ingenious hydraulic system:

The hydraulic system of the Vallois Rope Factory is extremely sophisticated.

Upstream is the reach, a diversion channel that leads the water underneath the wheel. Then you will find a powered sluice gate, positioned perpendicular to the current. Made up of three doors, it is controlled by a handwheel located inside the factory that regulates the flow.

Finally, the ball-type governor, a piece of equipment manufactured around 1900 by a Rouen mechanic called Naudin, controls the rotation speed of the drive shafts. It therefore enabled the speed of the wheel to be checked from the first floor in order to prevent it from turning too fast and damaging the machines.

Products made

Cotton and bobbins

The rope factory produced rope for almost 100 years, using spools of cotton thread produced in the region’s mills.

Cotton harvested in the southern United States, India, Egypt, China and Pakistan arrived in the port of Rouen. The cotton balls were then transported by rail to the textile factories in the Cailly valley.

As space in the rope factory was quite limited, the work was completed over several floors. Located on the ground floor were the heaviest machines, from England or Scotland, which were used to manufacture cabled and twisted rope. On the first floor, a cord weaving workshop used mainly small French braiding machines.

Three kinds of “rope” were therefore produced at the Vallois Rope Factory:

- Twisted rope, by assembling and twisting cotton threads.
- Cabled ropes, by twisting twisted ropes (thin cabled ropes) or strands (thick cabled ropes).
- Braids, by intertwining single or assembled yarns.

These products were used to make various items. Twisted rope was used to make thin cabled ropes, produced at the rope factory. However, it could also be sold to the looms to make tapestries. As for the cabled rope, this was intended to be used as wicks for lighters and candles, as spinning bands or as fishing nets, thanks to its thickness.