Bristol 21 years ago – Sheldon Bush Shot Tower
|Date||30 May 2011|
|Location||Cheese Lane, Bristol||ST 59425 72929; 51.45387°N, 2.58533°W|
This 43 m reinforced concrete tower was used to manufacture lead shot for sport ammunition using a process patented by William Watts in 1782. Molten lead was poured through a colander at the top of the tower and was collected in a tank of cold water at the bottom, the drops having formed into spheres and hardened during the intervening descent. Arsenic or antimony (1-2%) was added to the lead in the crucible, as the resulting alloy formed globules more readily than pure lead.
Watts, a plumber by trade, lived directly opposite St Mary Redcliffe church. After some initial experimentation Watts converted an existing late 17th century house on Redcliff Hill by building a tower on the roof. Production from this shot-house was a great success and Watts later sold the business and the patent. Ultimately, however, he was declared bankrupt, losing his fortune through disastrous property speculation ventures. The business changed owners serveral times and in 1868 was aquired by Sheldon, Bush and Patent Shot Company.
The original shot tower was demolished in 1968 when Redcliff Hill road was widened. The replacement tower in Cheese Lane was built at the same time and was in operation until the late 1980s. The business was sold to British Lead Mills in 1990 and later to a subsidiary of Shell UK. In 2002 the site was acquired by developers Hyland Properties. From 1990 onwards various proposals for redevelopment were submitted, including an initial one, for which outline permission was granted, of demolishing the tower and building a five-storey office block. However, the tower was listed (Grade II) in 1995. It is one of only three surviving shot towers in England.
At the end of 2005 Hyland completed its scheme, creating a three-storey, glass-fronted office complex overlooking the Floating Harbour and converting the tower to a ‘boardroom in the sky’. The new office accommodation, known as Vertigo, currently has 2,228 sq ft of office space on the top floor left to let.