have owned the Tower for some 43 years and worked on it consistently
over that time. In the following pages we will try to offer more detail
about this building than is generally available.
Some facts about Sway Tower ,it's builder and the construction methods taken from many sources .
During the period from 1865 to 1875 great interest was taken in Portland cement and concrete by the general public in England; Yet at the Great Exhibitions in Hyde Park in 1851 and 1861 the public had taken little notice or interest in the cement and concrete exhibits, some of which had weighed over a ton. This sudden interest can be ascribed to several causes; Mr Tall, the French Exposition, and the Emperor Napoleon may be cited. It was Mr Joseph Tall who first invented portable climbing forms for concrete work, and as often is the case with inventors, he claimed such immense saving over the cost of brick and stone walls, that people became interested in his methods, and many builders bought his apparatus and paid to Mr Tall a royalty upon each house built. A company was formed to exploit and build with his apparatus. Mr Tall supervised the building of several cottages with his forms at the French Exposition and the Emperor presented him with a medal.
The double projections (entrance wings , porticoes or porches) at ground level , east and west of the main tower base have entrances with superbly formed gothic arches and the footings to the walls are similar to those for the main tower. ’The ground floor walls are 2 ft. thick, making the room inside 18 ft. square. At a height of 98 ft.. a molded course of precast concrete shaped blocks is built in, and the walls reduced from the outside to 18 in. thick. the Size of the room being kept the same. Again at 108 ft. is a second molded course, and the concrete. being offset to 14 in. The walls of the octagonal observatory above the main cornice are 9 in. thick, also above the main cornice. is the ionic-shaped top of the hexagonal staircase, inscribed in a 9 foot. circle containing 330 precast steps. here are other steps of iron, from the cornice level into the. observatory. The climbing timber shuttering or forms were made I8 in. deep, and three heights or lifts were used; studding was used as spacers inside and outside the walls. and the forms were bolted to these right around the tower. One course of Form was filled with concrete, then the second and third; when the third form was filled. the lowest was removed to the top position for concrete filling. thus there was always 3 feet (almost 1 meter) of concrete held in the forms, while the third was being filled and rammed with the concrete of a consistency used in those earlier days of dry mixes for tamping by hand. At openings, wood frames were inserted between the forms and it will be noticed from subsequent illustrations that it was possible to insert the precast. concrete reveal moldings between the forms, so that they could be tied into the walls, because they do not project beyond the face on the exterior or interior of the wall. The twelve floors in the tower were constructed on rolled iron joists, the ends of which were concreted into the main walls; wood forms were fixed level with the bottom of the joist flanges. and concrete deposited: between them. the top surface being finished smooth. "The concrete was mixed 'upon a boarded floor to an even colour dry, and then damped with water from a watering-can, with a perforated spout or outlet, while being turned. It was then filled into a hopper and hoisted by means of a Windlass at first and at greater heights by means of blocks and pulleys ,with an old horse as the motive power; an opening was left in the catch floor for hoisting materials until completion.
It took two days to raise the climbing form. and two days to fill and ram the concrete hence the average quantity of the concrete deposited would be about 4 cubic yards (3.5 cubic meters?) a day. A number of men were constantly filling molds to cast various other stair steps, cornice moldings, or window and decorative surrounds.This being mixed 1-2-4, with a proportion of iron oxide, in fine powder, giving it the red tint which has survived, although faded, until today.
Gravel and sand found upon the estate ( Silver street farm is mentioned) were used in the foundations and the main building, except for one small part, which will be noticed as a darker band by the third floor windows.This was caused by a delay in the carts arriving from Milford on sea, where the aggregates were gathered; as the whole of this material was washed before use, it was probably thought that all washed aggregate would make concrete of the same tint.
On the entrance wings or porticoes, the marks showing the line of the studs used to carry the climbing shuttering are plainly visible; if the walls had been plastered, these would, of course, have been hidden. The sharpness of the angles: of the concrete are worthy of notice after 130 years' of exposure.
The roofs over these wings are also of l:2:4 mix Concrete, with a 6 inch (125mm) crown in the middle to throw the rain water to outlets at the walls. After the concrete was cured and dry, it was coated with‘ ordinary coal tar, this coating has worn off the roof, In 1990 the roofs were given a 4 inch (100mm) waterproof render on mesh, then 2 x 75mm layers of asphalt , painted with solar reflective paint, they are perfectly watertight now.
There were twelve rectangular holes at each floor level, these held the joists which carried the outside scaffold that was 6 ft (1.85 m). wide. The joists were brought to the center of the floor and clamped together.
From the cupola platform a magnificent panoramic view is obtained of the surrounding country for many miles.Facing due south the visitor can see the famous Needle Rocks, standing out boldly; while slightly to the left are the high cliffs at Alum Bay, with their wonderful and variegated colors. Picturesque Totland Bay is also noticeable; and Hurst Castle, the guardian of the narrow channel between the mainland and the western extremity of the Isle of Wight, wherein the unfortunate monarch, Charles I, was in 1648 kept in close custody for a month and three days, and where the town chest of Lymington was deposited, while Prince Rupert’s fleet lay in the Solent, is a prominent View presented to the onlooker.
On a clear day, far away in the east may be discerned Portsdown Hill, crowned by the Fortifications that guard Portsmouth and Spithead. Looking to the west, Christchurch Priory is plainly visible, Bournemouth bay and the Studland peninsular. It is said that on a clear day looking to the north west, the spire of Salisbury cathedral is visible.
The Circular openings at the top of the second Gothic recess at floor 10 were originally intended for a large illuminated clock, but this proposal was vetoed by the Trinity Board Authorities, who control lighthouses, because owing to its great height, it is one of the first landmarks that meet the eye of the home-coming mariner from the English Channel. No bells have been hung, nor has a flagstaff been fixed, though preparations were made. For years the tower stood defying the storms, without even a lightning rod, but it was struck a few years (Article written in 1924) ago without any great damage, and a lightning conductor has since been fixed for protection.
Mr. Peterson died, a nonagenarian in 1906. What his real intentions regarding the tower were are not now clearly known. In a spiritualist news paper of the time he states that those in possession of the paper could ascend the Tower so that they could, on reaching the top, reflect on the small scale of their existence and how they lived their lives. He also said that an admission would be charged and the funds received would go towards the support of several small cottages he had built, where workers that had retired from their labours in the area could live out their remaining years , with a ton of coal supplied per year for fuel. No doubt the cost (said to be £30,000 at the time of building) was heavy, in spite of the low wages ) paid at that time. The builder, in altruistic sympathy, made employment for the village carpenters, smiths, and labourers, as the work was done when unemployment was very prevalent (More on this later) .Why the original design was never completed (presumably meaning why was the Tower not rendered?) cannot be fathomed now.