Hounslow Gunpowder Mills

It is hard to envision as you walk today in the beauty and serenity of Crane Park in Hounslow that this was the site of Europe’s largest gunpowder mill.

River Crane in Crane Park
River Crane in Crane Park


The mill opened in 1766 and produced gunpowder for both the army and the navy, It was shipped from Hounslow to the military depots by cart or later by barge from Isleworth, They were known as incorporating mills as they mixed together gunpowder from sulphur, saltpetre and charcoal. At its peak it employed over 300 people and there are records of over 50 major explosions at the works.


Picture depicting the effects of an explosion at the Gunpowder MIll
Picture depicting the effects of an explosion at the Gunpowder MIll


Little is visible of the mills today although there are some signs of the industrial works that once stood there.




Site of waterwheel
Site of waterwheel


One building that does remain is the shot tower. This was built in 1823 for the purpose of making lead shot. Molten lead was melted on the ground floor and then carried up to the top floor where it was poured into a copper sheath which ran down the tower and as it fell it formed into small round pellets which were cooled and hardened when they fall into a brick water tank located at the bottom of the tower. The tower is 83 feet tall and this means that it could only produce small shot as the distance of the fall determines the size of the shot. The biggest towers were  up to 120 feet tall.


The tower only produced shot on a Sunday when there was no work at the nearby explosives factory. Other safety measures included a ban on the possession of matches on site and workers having to wear special felt shoes whilst in the factory.

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