The Shot Towers
T. R. Way
Signed and dated 1899
Source: Reliques of Old London, 41
See commentary below
Text and formatting by George P. Landow
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Commentary by H. B. Wheatley from Reliques of Old London
THE two Shot Towers shown in this drawing are very striking objects on the south side of the river, but they have not received, in the ordinary books about London, the attention they deserve. Both existed before Waterloo Bridge was built, and they mark the confines of the notorious Cuper's Gardens, through which the Waterloo Road was cut.
The square tower to the east was built soon after 1782, when a workman named Watts, residing at Bristol, discovered a new process of shot manufacture. In the old method the lead was dropped so short a distance before touching the water, that the shot was seldom of a satisfactorily spherical shape.
Watts conceived the notion of letting the lead fall from a great height into the water, so that it might cool and harden in a spherical form during its passage through the air, and not receive any change of shape on its sudden contaft with the water. The story is told that the idea came to him in a dream, and that he tried the feasibility of his idea by pouring some melted lead from the tower of the church of St. Mary, Redcliffe. Watts patented his process, and sold the right to work his patent to some persons who had money, which he had not. The eastern of the two towers was built, and the shot-making firm traded under the name of Messrs. Watts.
Messrs. Watts were succeeded by Messrs. Walker. The height of the tower from the ground to the top of the turret is about 140 feet, and the shot fell 123 feet 6 inches. Early in the present century the western Shot Tower, which was of considerably greater height, was built by one Maltby. Some time after this the Walkers joined Maltby in the new manufaftory, and the old tower was continued in work by Burns of Shrewsbury, and afterwards by Lane and Nesham.
The new tower was used by Messrs. Walker and Parker, and when this firm became a limited company they bought the old tower and carried on business at both. A few years ago, however, it was found that there was no need for two towers, and the square tower was let to Messrs. Dewar, for the storage of their whiskeys. This is situated in the Commercial Road, and the wharf where it stands is named the Old Shot Tower Wharf.
The Shot Tower in the foreground is situated in the Belvedere Road, which was formerly known as Narrow Walk but re-named after the Belvedere House and Gardens, Lambeth. The amount of work done in this tower may be guessed by the knowledge of the fact that about 300,000 shot are made per minute. This is not the place to give an account of shot manufacture, but it may be said that there is a furnace at the top of the tower, and the melted lead is poured through a sort of sieve, and the shot falls through the centre of the tower to the bottom. [42-43]
Way, T. R., and H. B. Wheatley. Reliques of Old London upon the Banks of the Thames and in the Subburbs South of the River. London: George Bell and Sons, 1909. [title page] Internet Archive version of a copy in the Boston Public Library. Web. 22 April 2012..