Donaghy's Rope Walk

64 Bradshaw Street, South Dunedin, Dunedin

  • Donaghy's Rope Walk. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Derek Smith - travelling-light. Taken By: Derek Smith - travelling-light. Date: 19/07/2004.
  • Donaghy's Rope Walk. A worker in the rope walk c1960s. Donaghys Industries Limited, Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago. MS-3560/0633.
    Copyright: University of Otago. Taken By: Campbell Studios in Dunedin.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7167 Date Entered 21st April 1994


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Allot 12 Blk V and Sec 26 Blk VII Town SD (CTs OT57/252 and OT57/253) and the building known as Donaghy's Rope Walk thereon.

City/District Council

Dunedin City


Otago Region

Legal description

Pt Allot 12 Blk V and Sec 26 Blk VII Town SD (CTs OT57/252 and OT57/253), Otago Land District


Long and narrow, stretching the length of a suburban block, Donaghy’s Rope Walk in South Dunedin is thought to be the only surviving rope walk in New Zealand, and is historically and architecturally significant as it recalls the technology and buildings associated with the art of rope making in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Originally constructed in 1878 (and replaced in 1920) the rope walk was part of the Otago Steam Rope and Twine Works (later Donaghy Industries) which manufactured rope, twine and cordage for both the New Zealand and export markets.

Rope making was one of the pioneering industries established in New Zealand in the 1840s. Rope was essential for sailing ships, industry, ports, households and agriculture. The New Zealand industry grew from the European tradition. In Europe, ropes were made in structures called rope walks. Rope walks were long buildings where strands of fibre the full length of the rope were spread out and laid up (twisted together) Rope making machinery was hand operated until the nineteenth century when steam power was introduced – steam was used at Donaghy’s. The rope and cordage industry in New Zealand was a vital if unsung trade.

The physical requirements of rope making gave the rope walk its specialised architectural form. The length of the walk determined the length of rope that could be made without splicing. Donaghy’s Rope Walk is approximately 300 metres long (reported as 950 feet or 289 metres in 1878) and less than four metres wide, although the overall length of the site to Hillside Road is around 390 metres. According to Donaghy’s records, the rope walk was replaced in 1920 (and perhaps extended). The rope walk has concrete foundations and an asphalt floor. The south end of the building is brick and elsewhere the superstructure is timber framed and clad with vertical board and batten, and also stuccoed at a later date. The wooden roof structure is exposed internally and clad with corrugated asbestos sheeting.

Donaghy’s went on to become the sole supplier of rope and cordage to the New Zealand market after a series of amalgamations and takeovers (taking over Waiuku and Foxton twine works and Wellington Cordage Co among other competitors). The rope walk at Dunedin is said to be the only one remaining in New Zealand. The rope walk ceased commercial production in 2012.

In 2014, Donaghy’s continues to manufacture rope made from both natural and synthetic fibres in its Dunedin factory although the rope walk no longer operates.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Donaghy's Rope Walk is of great historical significance as a result of its association with the rope making industry. It is the only known rope walk of its kind to have survived in New Zealand, if not in the Southern Hemisphere (Ian McDougall). While not a pillar of the colonial economy, the rope making industry nevertheless had a place within New Zealand's industrial heritage and M Donaghy and Co was pre-eminent amongst rope making manufacturers. The company dominated the industry this century.


Donaghy's Rope Walk is of very great architectural quality as a result of the contribution it makes to industrial archaeology. It would appear to be the only surviving rope walk of its kind in New Zealand. Much of the early plant is intact and the building therefore demonstrates the application of Victorian rope making technology. With technological progress, long lengths of rope can now be manufactured in smaller factory spaces. The survival of early plant adds integrity to the building known as Donaghy's Rope Walk.


The site of Donaghy's Rope Walk borders Bathgate Park in South Dunedin and with its unusual 380x10 metre dimensions the building has some landmark status.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Walden, Edward Walter

Walden was born (b.1870) in Dunedin and educated at Otago Boys' High School. He began his architectural career articled to James Hislop. He became a partner in the Dunedin firm of Hislop and Walden, and when Hislop died in 1902, he took over the firm.

Walden was responsible for the first abattoirs erected in New Zealand, Hallenstein's Building on the Octagon, a church at Anderson's Bay and Levin and Company's Building, Dunedin.

His son Eric practised architecture at Nelson.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


Original building: not known

Additions: Edward Walter WALDEN

BUILDER: Not known


Purpose built for rope making, this industrial building is approximately 380 metres long and only 10 metres wide. Behind a false front facade is a pitched roof with skylights. The front facade is symmetrical with a recessed panel on either side and a simple cornice. The manufacturing plant runs the length of the interior.

Notable Features

Extant plant equipment of the rope walk

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1878 -

1920 -
Replacement of rope walk and extension by 120-130 metres

Completion Date

26th February 2014

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)

Land Information New Zealand

CT 57/252

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

'Buildings Classification Glossary of Architects, Engineers and Designers', not published, 11 December 1990

Thornton, 1982

Geoffrey G. Thornton, New Zealand's Industrial Heritage, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1982

Lucas, 1979

K G Lucas, A New Twist, A Centennial of Donaghy's Industries Ltd, Donaghy's Industries Ltd, Dunedin, 1979

Hocken Collections

'Early History of Otago Steam Ropeworks...', notes compiled by H.J. Simcock (1944) AG-202/1711, Donaghys Industries Limited: Records (ARC-0042)

Other Information

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Southern Regional Office of NZHPT.

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Southern region office.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.