The Twickenham Museum
For children

The Gunpowder Mills
An early industry
c1540 - 1927

The Shot Tower in Crane Park in 2004, its lantern restored.

The Shot Tower in Crane Park

Along the banks of the River Crane is a tall cylindrical stone tower with mill stones lying outside. This is the Shot Tower, the only surviving building of the Hounslow Gunpowder Mills.

Mills were probably first built here during the reign of Henry VIII. The first mills ground corn, copper, linseed oil and wood pulp for making paper.

A hazardous operation

The Shot Tower before restoration


But by 1766 gunpowder was being made here. It was a successful but dangerous business. During the 18th and 19th centuries there were many explosions causing injury and death.

Walpole complained that his windows at Strawberry Hill were broken by one explosion. Another explosion terrified people at church in Isleworth.

Joseph Farington noted in his diary on Monday 25 January 1796 that: "The Powder Mills at Hounslow were blown yesterday. ...not a fragment of them remained. They were scattered over the country in small pieces. Three men were killed."

After each explosion the mills were rebuilt. High class gunpowder was needed for the military and for gun sports. Gunpowder from the Houslow Mills was very important to the first world war effort.

The mills closed in 1927. The decision was made to move the dangerous business of making gunpowder away from houses and people.

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