next prev

View across floating harbour

View from Castle Park

Side elevation

Waterside elevation

Tower

Location

Cheese Lane, Bristol, BS2 0JJ

Dates

Completed 1969. 1980s lead production ceases in Bristol and the shot tower is given Grade II listed status. 2005 the shot tower is converted for use as an office complex.

Architect

E.N. Underwood and Partners (structural engineers). Remodelling in 2005 done by WCW.

Style

Modern

Listed Status

Grade II

Materials

Reinforced concrete which in 2002 during restoration works, was coated in Xypex to waterproof it and prevent it deteriorating.

Glass windows were replaced with new laminated double glazed safety glass.

Interior steel columns walkways and staircases have now been removed to enable suitable work and living space.

Original Function

The production of spherical lead bullets mostly used in the sport ammunition industry

Building type

Industry

Visitor Access

There is no public access to Shot Tower. It can be viewed from various points in central Bristol: Passage Street, Temple Back and Temple Way being the closest.

Links

Shot Tower History

Know Your Place

Key Facts

  • One of only three surviving lead-shot production towers in England
  • An original and quirky 1960s shape on the Bristol skyline
  • An ingenious example of turning one building use into another

Bristol’s famous former Shot Tower has been a quirky feature on the skyline since the late 1960s thanks to the unusual bulbous shape at the top. The efficient production of lead shot (for firing from muskets) was established in Bristol and patented by local plumber William Watts in 1782. He realized that dropping molten lead from a great height created perfectly spherical shot. Watts built the world’s first shot tower in his house on Redcliff Hill.

 

In 1968 this was demolished for road widening. By now Sheldon Bush Patent Shot Company owned the original tower and they created an award-winning experimental design for a new one in Cheese Lane. It was made of reinforced concrete and its designers decided to make something visually fun and pleasing out of a functional building. Production at the tower had stopped by the 1990s and it was listed by English Heritage in 1995. Since 2005 is has been part of an office complex and its twelve-sided bulbous top is now a boardroom in the sky.

Before Watts developed his method, lead shot had been cast in moulds, giving them dents and imperfections. With a tower, pouring molten lead through holes in a tray from a great height into a pool of water beneath turns the lead globules into smooth, round shot.

 

The modern tower was built by Sheldon Bush using the £25,000 they received from Bristol City Council as compensation for the loss of Watts’s original one. Cheese Lane was chosen as the location because there had been a lead works there since the 1870s. The 1969 tower is 43 metres (141 feet) tall. If you cut a slice through its shaft you would see that it has a ‘Y’ shape. The Y’s three ‘arms’ carried a staircase, a hoist for molten lead, and the dropping shaft. The architects received the Civic Design Award from Bristol’s Civic Society in 1969. Once the effects of lead poisoning on wildlife and the environment became known, lead-shot production went into decline and finally ended at the Shot Tower.

Leave a Comment