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We 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.

 
Andrew Thomas Turton Peterson was born in Wakefield in 1814. As a boy he was independent and self reliant , on rebelling against working in the family business he ran away to sea at the age of 14 years where he served as a seaman on an orange ship for about a year. He picked up a good knowledge of navigation sufficient to enable him to bring the vessel to port after a mutiny on board. The incident gained him considerable publicity and he became reconciled with his relations.   His uncle Sir Thomas Turton obtained for him a minor appointment at a salt works in India, but his health suffered and he decided to return home to England. While he was there he had dealings with and India official who, recognising Peterson's sharp inteligence, recomended he study for the Bar as there were exciting opportunities in that proffession at the time in India. Peterson had noticed the extensive use of concrete in India, there being natural cement to be had. This would have far reaching consequences for many in the future. He studied for the bar at Cambridge, was called to the bar and practiced on the circuit for a period, including at Guildford, before returning to India where he amassed a considerable fortune by all accounts. Being many years leader of the Calcutta Bar and also a Judge of the High Court of Calcutta, India. He retired from practice in the early 1850s. The practice of building with natural cement had been going on for centuries in parts of India and he must have been exposed to that building method while in there. He realised his investments and returned to England to settle down at Sway, a small Village in Hampshire about 12 miles west of Southampton. It may be noted that his return coincided with the upsurge in interest in concrete mentioned above. At Sway he bought an estate and made investments which, no doubt, included some shares in The Isle of Wight Portland Cement Co., Ltd., which had erected works at Newport, about fifteen miles across the solent from Sway. He had decided have all the building work on the estate carried out in concrete under his own direction and supervision, by local labour, mostly unskilled. Labour was plentiful at that time as a result of the completion of of the Brockenhurst to New Milton railway. Peterson was concerned for the welfare of the unemployed men, wages were low. He raised his rates of pay to what he regarded a living wage and took care to only hire men who were genuinely unemployed. He made a large number of experiments, that culminated in the construction of farm buildings, semi detached cottages, boundary walls, and the iconic concrete tower , 220 ft. high, which he designed, being his own architect and builder, with help from the engineer Rollo Massey ,the whole of the work being carried out by local rural labour as planned ,over a period of six years. A man of simple habits, he took little part in the social life of the district, and an abruptness in speech and manner discouraged intimacy. In India Peterson had come across the ideas of Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophists, he was also interested in Mesmerism, there being a hospital or clinic in Calcutta. A few years after his arrival in Sway The New Forest shakers, as they became known, took up residence at New Forest Lodge, Hordle nearby. Their name deriving from the manner of their behavior at their ceremonies. Peterson was convinced that their "shakings: were under hypnotic or spiritualistic control. This led him to the study of spiritualism.  The main part of the work on his estate was finished which would mean no employment for his workforce   The fine vertical lines of the concrete, composed, of 5 parts of fairly well-graded gravel, 1 part of sand to ,1 part of Portland cement, which produced a surface that would provide a good key for a rendering coat, which was intended but never applied. The gravel was hauled from Silver Street Farm, quite close to the Tower and Hordle beach (to be explained later)- - - - The design is based upon classical lines with semi-Gothic details, and the main intention was to show what could be done with concrete carefully made, deposited, and cured. It is monolithic, except for the spiral steps in the hexagonal projection, the molding courses to window openings, and cornices, which were cast in molds and tinted with oxide of iron. . The walls surrounding the tower were also monolithic concrete with a cast pitched coping. The interesting feature, is the relation of small plan dimensions to great height. It is exposed to all the winds that blow, and is near the sea coast. You can get an impression from the photo (3rd Down) of the needles across the Solent taken from the top.The excavation for the foundation was 9 feet below ground level , and the concrete footings to the walls were deposited 4foot 6 inches wide and 3 foot 6 inches deep, a large concrete vault was formed between the footings up to the ground floor level. It had land drains to allow the water to pass under the building, which is on a good gravel base.
 

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.