Posting 2: Clifton Hill Shot Tower

2 (94)-124 Alexandra Parade, Clifton Hill 3068, E of Gold Street, cnr Coopers Lane.

Land title: Vol 8384, Fol 960.

This is the tallest and arguably the finest shot tower ever to be built in the world, and should be nominated to the World Heritage List.

It is gravely threatened by the proposed East West Link, for which contracts have already been signed.

Built 1882 for Richard Hodgson, Alfred Hudson and Simon Hughes, but bought by Walter Coop (who built the Melbourne Central Shot Tower) in 1896.

It is 76.5 metres high, with a small furnace on top vented by a 3.6 metre chimney at the NW, giving a total height of 80.1 metres. It resembles a very tall chimney, or a minaret, is load-bearing pressed red brick with 2 decorative cream brick bands and a wider plinth drum as base. It has round-headed windows staggered to avoid weakening the structure, and Internally jhas a spiral stair.

It is an unsupported structure and vulnerable to any foundation movement, eg: blasting, rock drilling, or mechanical vibration. Its footing is likely to extend 1-2 m out from the walls, probably on bedrock basalt, but it is not known how continuous the foundation is, as there are variations in the basaltic flow and floaters with lacunae of reactive clay between in this area. The tower is now in perfect structural condition, despite no maintenance in living memory. Its situation on the flat basaltic plain is very striking and is visible for some distance from several directions.

Nigel Lewis, Conservation Architect (refer below), has used an inclinometer to determine that the tower’s height is 76.5 metres + 3.1 metre chimney = 80.1 metres. The only comparable shot tower in the world is the 1828 Phoenix Shot Tower, in Baltimore, USA at 71.4 metres, but the Clifton Hill tower is a far more refined design.

A part from the Royal Exhibition Building dome, the Clifton Hill Shot Tower was probably the tallest structure in Australia when built in 1882; until 1930, when City Hall, Brisbane, 85 m high, was built.

A complete geotechnical investigation is needed to understand the ground condition within 10 metres of the tower, and to ascertain the pattern of basaltic flow. Any alteration to the water table due to tunnelling or excavation could alter the ground drainage patterns and induce subsidence.

A structural analysis of the tower is also needed in relation to the work processes anticipated, particularly in relation to explosive weight of blasting, drilling and ground-borne mechanical vibration described in the Heilig & Partners report (below). 

The project area boundary and the Alexandra Parade sidetrack are immediately contiguous to the Shot Tower on Cooper Lane and Alexandra Parade, so the Tower will be subjected to the highest anticipated levels of vibration. The Heilig & Partners report individually mentions several properties of lesser heritage significance, but they hardly mention the Shot Tower at all.

The tunnel’s Hoddle Street vent stack is to be of similar height to the Shot Tower and close to it and so it should be designed to relate to it visually, but preferably relocated to a site of lower cultural significance.

The massiveness of the roadworks, particularly the Hoddle Street Flyover, will severely degrade the cultural context of the tower, unless carefully designed.

The Victorian Heritage Register report incorrectly states the tower height at 48.7 metres, confusing it with the Melbourne Central Shot Tower, which is in fact that height, and the National Trust citation, even more incorrectly, gives its height at 160 metres.

Neither report mentions the tower’s international significance.

There appears to be no Conservation Management Plan for the tower. This must be prepared, including a full international comparative analysis to determine its designer and its significance in world terms.



Allom Lovell, City of Yarra Heritage Review, 1989. Listed, but no assessment.

VHR, HO709, since 1988, only to 1.6 metres around the base. Citation sheet.

NT Classified, B3798, 1978, revised 3.8.1998. This file includes a report by Richard Braddish, 1998 on ‘Shot Towers of Australia.’ Citation sheet.

Nigel Lewis, Conservation Architect, personal submission regarding the East West Link to the Linking Melbourne Authority, 11 April 2014. This has been particularly useful in preparing these notes, and Nigel is to be congratulated for submitting it.

Heilig & Partners, East-West Link- Eastern Section Tunnel Vibration & regenerated Noise Assessment, 2013.


Historic heights comparison

Minarets at Barsian (34 m, 1097 AD); Sarban in Isfahan (1130-55, 48 m), Ali Mosque Manar, Isfahan(1118-57, 48 m); Vabkent minaret, Bukhara, Isfahan (1196-7, 39 m), the Islom-Hoja, Uzbekistan (56 m), and the Jam minaret, north of Bukhara, Afganistan  (62 m, 1150), are cylindrical brick and comparable, but smaller. All probably derive from the wondrous Lighthouse (or Pharos) of Alexandria, built by the Ptolemy dynasty between 280- 247 BC and 120-137 m tall, and gradually destroyed from 680-1496.

Taroona Shot Tower, Hobart, Joseph Moir designer, stone (1890), 48 m.

Coop Shot Tower, Melbourne Central  (1890) 48.8 m

Australia Australian Building (built 1889, now demolished) 55.7 + 5  = 60.7 m

Orica Deer Park Shot Tower (1953), steel framed, with a lift, 63 m.

St Ignatius, Richmond (1867-94 and spire 1927).  65.3 m

(Tallest C19 other structure in suburban Melbourne).


Manchester Unity Building (1932),                              64.0 + 10 = 74.0 m


T & G Building (1928)                                                   68.6 + 22 = 88.6 m


Royal Exhibition Building (1879)                                  65.2 + 40 =105.2 m


ICI Building (1955-58)                                                  70.1 + 39 = 109.1 m


St Patrick’s Cathedral (1858-99, spires: 1936-39)      103.6 + 41 = 147.6 m

Shot towers in Perth; and Blackwattle Bay, Glebe, Sydney, have been demolished.

Richard Peterson, Architect, 2 November 2014.