© Routoir Et Puits De Regnéville | Département de la Manche

The retting ponds of Regnéville

The retting ponds of Regnéville

Just below the big prairie, a long rectangular pond and two smaller ones were dug on the outskirts of the village. In past times, these ponds were used for the retting the hemp harvest, the first stage of soaking then separating the fibres.

Retting flax and hemp

In order to separate the woody stalks, the straw and the textile fibres, retting consisted of immersing the flax or hemp to break down the pectin, a natural “cement” that bonds the fibres together. This fermentation created a pungent odour and turned the water toxic. Retting ponds such as in Regnéville were set apart from dwellings and water courses.

 

From hemp to yarn

Following retting and drying, the hemp is beaten using a breaker. The hemp fibre or tow is then separated from the stalk and the straw. The tow is beaten again then combed on large planks through a series of progressively thinner, sharpened metal teeth.  The last impurities of the tow are removed and it is ready to be delivered to weavers or rope makers.

From yarn to the Regnéville rope maker

Jean-Marie BEAUDOIN, a craftsman rope maker set up in Regnéville in 1884. From the tow, he and his employee handmade a small hemp twine called “le fil de caret”. Combined and twisted together, this twine is at the origin of all ropes. Up until 1925, Jean-Marie BEAUDOIN’s ropery supplied the ships of Regnéville as well as the surrounding farms. A reconstitution of the ropery in Regnéville, a gift from the BEAUDOIN family, is visible at the Regnéville maritime museum.

 

> Why isn’t the ropery in Regnéville situated near the retting ponds ?
Answer : The strong smell of the decomposing hemp makes it compatible with any other activity close by.