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Volume Seven - The People - Dock Family Trees - A Section of Maritime Trades and Tradesmen . . .

The following article was included within the book "Cardiff - An Illustrated Handbook" published by the Western Mail in 1896 and written by P. Ward. [247]

Sail-making - Notwithstanding the fact that sail-making is a trade which is almost entirely dependent on mercantile marine demands, and that during the past twenty-five years the commercial growth of Cardiff has been phenomenal, it is notorious that this branch of local industry has been greatly on the decline during that period. At present it gives employment to only a limited number of hands, and this employment is by no means regular. In all, there may be about thirty journeymen sail-makers at present in Cardiff.

 

The work is carried on in sail lofts, of which there are now about eight, some of them owned by master sail-makers and others by ship store merchants. There was a larger number of sail lofts about 25 years ago when the trade was in a flourishing condition, and, consequently, a greater number of sail-makers employed, and employment was more regular at that period. The kindred trade of shipbuilding was brisk, and, naturally, there was a great demand for sails. This state of things seems to have continued for about ten years, so that the decade from 1866 to 1876 may be called the golden age of sail-making in Cardiff. Then came a change. Cardiff began to feel the full effects of the revolutionising powers of steam. Steamers grew more and more numerous in the docks, and the number of sailing vessels steadily decreased. Hence the decay of the sail-making industry.

The material used for sails is generally called sail-cloth, and is made from flax or cotton. The flax cloth is made in rolls or belts of about 40 yards long and 24 inches wide, and the cotton cloth in bolts of about 80 to 100 yards long and generally about 22 inches wide, and for yachting purposes about 18 inches, and sometimes narrower.

The sail-cloth may be either heavy or light, according to the sail for which it is intended, and the rolls or bolts are numbered from one to six or higher, and the qualities vary. The lower numbers are the heavy cloths and are used for storm and other sails, the other numbers for lighter sails. A large quantity of the sail-cloth used in Cardiff is obtained from Scotland and the West of England.

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