Halifax firm helps with restoration of Elizabeth Tower home of Big Ben

A Halifax company has paid a key role in the restoration of the Elizabeth Tower in London which is home to Big Ben.

By Ian Hirst
Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 3:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 9:57 am

The Elizabeth Tower conservation project is due to complete next year, with the country counting down the days until the world-famous chimes of Big Ben can be heard once more.

Whilst much of the work has taken place in London, teams from right across the UK have contributed to the restoration – including companies based in Calderdale.

Yorkshire’s connection to the Elizabeth Tower runs into the very fabric of the building. The Tower –as well as the rest of the Palace of Westminster - was originally constructed with limestone from the Anston Quarry in Yorkshire

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Work on Elizabeth Tower where Big Ben is housed (©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Anston stone was chosen because it was cheaper, could be carved more elaborately and was close to the Chesterfield canal – ideal for easy transport to London.

Over 160 years later, when it came to the most significant restoration in the Tower’s history, Yorkshire was once again chosen as the best part of the world to source stone for the project. In 2017, stone was hewn from the Cadeby Quarry in Doncaster – a limestone famed for its durability and hardiness.

Cadeby rock is also a particularly close match for the original Anston limestone, ensuring a consistent look throughout the Tower’s exterior.

It isn’t just the stone of the Tower that hails from Yorkshire – it’s the nuts and bolts of the building, too.

Hargreaves Foundry, based in Halifax, has been casting iron for everything from mouldings to gutters and roof tiles during the restoration.

Right across the Elizabeth Tower, you can see the Hargreaves Foundry ‘HF’ stamp on the metalwork, ensuring that Yorkshire’s presence in the building is felt for many years to come.

Michael Hinchcliffe from Hargreaves Foundry said: "This is an immensely prestigious project involving some of the best architects, engineers, historians, archivists and manufacturers in the country and we are immensely proud to be involved, especially given Halifax’s close association with Charles Barry, the original architect."

At the top of the Tower sits the Ayrton Light, a lantern-like structure installed in 1885 which shines whenever either House of Parliament sits after dark.

Whilst the electricity supply to the Ayrton Light has been switched off since 2018 and connected to four temporary lights, this historic structure now only awaits its new energy-efficient electrical light fittings - with the ironwork, casing and access areas now complete.

The work was carried out by Shepley Engineers – a company whose Sheffield workshop played an essential role in restoring this important historical structure.

Teams had to remove every single piece of the Ayrton Light from the top of the Elizabeth Tower, fully dismantling and restoring everything from the large iron panels to the smallest nuts and bolts.

Individual pieces were then transported to Sheffield, where teams had to mark and catalogue the structure prior to grit blasting and full reconstruction.  

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