Bridge crossing the Derwent on Midlands Highway north of Hobart
Derwent River south of Hobart near Taroona
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A sign at the base of the tower reads :
"This shot tower was built by the proprietor, Joseph Moir, in the year 1870. In its erection he acted as Engineer, Architect, Carpenter and Overseer. With merely the assistance of two masons it was completed in 8 months, when the secrets of shotmaking had to be discovered. After many persevering efforts the first shot was dropped on the 8th of September 1870."
In fact, it's certain the Shot Tower took eight years to build, not eight months as Moir claimed. But it was – it is – a remarkable construction: tapered and nearly 60 metres tall, the tower's base is 10 metres in diameter and the walls a metre thick; at the top, where it tapers to 3.9 metres, the walls thin to about half a metre. While shot towers were once common, this is the world's last tower of its type.
Attached to a historic house known as Queensborough Glen, which was the residence of Moir and his family for many years, Moir sourced stone from a nearby abandoned convict probation station, taking on many roles during the construction process, with the assistance of two stone masons.
At just twenty years old, Scotsman Joseph Moir arrived in Hobart in 1829, one of thousands of hopeful free immigrants who sailed to Van Diemen’s Land in the 1820s. By 1840 he had acquired several properties, government employment and a reputation as a builder of notable colonial buildings such as St Mark’s Anglican Church, Pontville. A prominent businessman, Moir was active in Hobart’s civic affairs between 1846 and 1873, a year before his death. He built the shot tower and its associated buildings and poured his first shot in 1870.
Lead was melted in cauldrons over wood fires at the top of the tower, arsenic and antimony were added, and, for larger size shot, the lead was poured through a colander at the top of the tower, falling 152 feet into a tub of water at the base. Small shot fell 30 feet in the factory. The shot was dried, sorted, graded, polished, weighed, packed and sold, and eighty tons were produced annually.
Until Federation, the business was protected by a tariff, but after 1901 Moir could not compete with the three other shotmakers in Australia, and the business closed in 1905.
Further reading: L Scripps, The industrial heritage of Hobart volume 1, Hobart, 1997; R Lord, The Shot Tower, Hobart, 1980.