Hounslow Gunpowder Mills
From the late C18th to 1926 Hounslow Gunpowder Mills operated from the land east of the Hanworth Road, covering 150 acres and creating new wide leats and a mill pond. The less vulnerable mill buildings were concentrated to the north of this pond with the more dangerous’ mill houses spread out along the waterways. The location was selected due to its isolated position, the supply of water power. The Shot Tower is the only remaining building of the 60 structures that were once part of the mill. Other evidence of the mills that can be found are the blast mounds that used to protect both buildings and workers, and the sluices that controlled the water supply to the mills.
There were a number of major explosions at the gunpowder mills and records of over 100 deaths attributed to mill workings have been collated. In 1927 the licence to manufacture gunpowder was cancelled and the site was bought by a Twickenham Councillor, Frank Yates who tried to sell the mills as a going concern. However a growing population in the area made it less suitable as a site for gunpowder production and eventually he sold part of the site for housing and part to Twickenham Council who turned it into a park in 1935.
In 1990 Crane Park Island was made a Statutory Local Nature Reserve and named Crane Park Island LNR. It is managed as a nature reserve by the London Wildlife Trust on lease from the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. The Shot Tower is open to the public on Sunday afternoons.
For more information take a look ...
- Tim Harness researched the fascinating history of gunpowder manufacturing by the River Crane, which was still in operation less than a hundred years ago. Watch his Explosive Twickenham video here or take a look at his presentation.
- Gunpowder Mill history recorded by Twickenham Museum
- Bedfont Powder Mills report and map
- the woodland archaelogy of Crane Park see Woodland Archaology Report
- Richmond Local Studies Libabry have an excellent History of the River Crane and gunpowder mills
- Demolition of chimney beside the Shot Tower 'Hoist with its Own Petard' Short frilm on BF IPlayer