Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Shot tower


Yesterday I reminded myself why so few people who live in Bath bother to make the 12 mile trip to Bristol, and vice versa.

I would say that I had to go to the middle of Bristol yesterday, but there is no middle. The middle was bombed out of existence in WW2, and now the city is made up of a collection of distinctive hamlets which orbit a vast shopping-centre like so many satellites.

Over the years, I have had several friends who - tiring of the essential shallowness of Bath - have decided to move to neighbouring Bristol for a bit of proper city life. "Don't worry," they say, "It's only 12 miles down the road." Nobody ever hears from them again.

It takes about 3 hours to make the return trip of 24 miles between Bath and Bristol.

I met a West Indian gangster in St Pauls once, and when I told him where I came from, he said, "Oh yes. Bath. I went there once. Nice place."

Outside the place I visited, there is a tall, brick tower. This is where they used to make lead shot for guns. They would melt a large pot of lead, then pour it through a sieve at the top of the tower. As the molten droplets fall, they form perfect spheres, graded in size according to the size of the sieve.

The balls cool slightly as they drop so that when they hit the pool of water below, they do not distort, but freeze into the shot for the guns to be raked up and dried. These shot towers used to be all over the place, but I think that is the only one left for miles around now.

African slaves - sugar and spice and all things nice, is what built Bristol. When the merchants made enough money, a lot of them came to Bath to retire, so you could say that 18th century Bath was built on the slave trade too.

On a more positive side, William Wilberforce had a house down the road about 300 yards away from here.

9 comments:

  1. I have always rather liked the idea of living in Bath, Tom. It is such a grand and refined place (or appears so). When I did an OU degree many years ago, I spent a week at the University of Bath and had a gorgeous time (like being let out of school when you are a kid)needing to do hardly any work. I wanted to take philosophy as my subject for the end of the week essay, but as I was the only one in the group who played an instrument I was persuaded to do the music section instead. As I already had a good music degree I had to do absolutely no work in order to get an A for what was to me a very easy essay. My memory seems to tell me that I spent much of the week out on the lawn with a glass of wine.

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    1. Sounds like me, but without the lawn.

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  2. I've never been to Bath, but my late mother loved it there. She would go for 'recuperating' weekends, and always dined at a restaurant called 'The Hole in the Wall'. I don't think she ever ventured as far as Bristol-m'dear.

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    1. My mother hated it, having visited around 1930. The Hole In The Wall used to be good, but was destroyed by a good friend of mine called Pino.

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  3. I took a photograph of the blue plaque on a house at the side of The Wallace Collection: William Wilberforce had stayed there too. And in the little park at Westminster stands a strange building for another man who fought against slavery, forgot his name at the moment.
    There is a very funny scene in Hercule Poirot's "The Adventure of the Clapham Cook" - he imitates the little servant Annie, who innocently presumes that the cook has been kidnapped by 'white slivvers'.
    When the slave-merchants retired in Bath - where did the slaves go?

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    1. Slaves turned into manservants. I have a few good friends now who are direct descendants. One of them dresses me in the mornings, and makes my breakfast (joke).

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    2. AND I BELIEVED YOU! Sob... sob..

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  4. We took the children around in 1976 to visit revolutionary war sites, and saw a lot of shot towers. In Pennsylvania I recall a shot tower that not only took advantage of local lead deposits, but used the side of a mountain as one wall of the shot tower. There are too many mountains in Pennsylvania.

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    1. Interesting. There must have been a lot of lead thrown around the country in those days - maybe even more than now!

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