Bristol 21 years ago – Sheldon Bush Shot Tower

Sheldon Bush Lead and Shot Works / Vertigo


30 May 2011

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.

Sheldon Bush & Patent Shot Co. Ltd. (English Heritage, Listed Buildings);
Sheldon Bush – The Lead Shot Tower (;
Shot Tower (Wikipedia); Vertigo Bristol

Sheldon Bush and Patent Shot Co. Lead and Shot Works in 1990

Vertigo, over the Floating Harbour from Temple Back

Vertigo, Cheese Lane

Vertigo, Cheese Lane

10 thoughts on “Bristol 21 years ago – Sheldon Bush Shot Tower

  1. That’s an interesting re-use of an industrial facility, most places are just wiped away from the landscape once they’re finished with.


  2. Interesting that the nondescript architecture surrounding the tower today looks similar to the “revitalised” area of the canal in Chester near the shot tower there. Good to see a modern version of the old principle, and that it hasn’t just been knocked down.


  3. Pingback: Chester Shot Tower « GeoTopoi

    • Yes i worked there in the eighties! There are so many processes that go unmentioned, or not documented, especially in the industrial museum Bristol.
      They state that the size of the shot that was dropped was determined by the height of the drop…….absolute rubbish may i add!
      It was determined by carefully pinned out frying pan style ‘pans’ of different sizes, No’s 1, 2. 3, 4, 5. 6, 7, 8 and 9. All other shot were machined stamped from produced lengths of lead, these were sizes AA, BB, SSG AND SG sizes, then sent to a Co named Dinsmores who added a groove in them to make split shot for fishing.
      If there’s anything you would like to know about this once fascinating building then please do not hesitate to contact me on……or facebook…Dennis Tiley.


      • Thanks Dennis you are quite right,having worked (contracting) at sheldon bush for several months in the early eighties, i was fortunate to see the cast iron frying pans being prepared and used in the production of the lead shot.
        We were there to install a new rolling mill and beds and then refurbish the old, marine engine driven rolling mill to “modern” standards.
        I spent many a happy hour up the tower watching the lads pour molten lead into the pans held over a small opening to the drop to the water tank below


        • Yes Mick i was with you when when the new rolling mill and beds were in stalled and refurbished the old and Rob Jones i think was there aswell i don`t work for that contracting firm anymore


  4. I was there between 87-92, untill they made people redundant, one of the best jobs i ever had, really miss the people there, happy days…


  5. I will be posting a video of the shot dropping process which was taken in 1993 by my late friend David ‘Yan’ Saunders, please in the next few weeks go to YouTube and my channel Ambientdweller and I will upload the footage.

    Liked by 1 person

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