Bo'ness foundry plays pivotal part in repairing home of Big Ben

A Bo’ness foundry say it’s been an “honour” to have played a crucial role in restoring the home of Big Ben.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 4:45 pm

Ballantine Castings employed traditional methods of cast iron work to create integral elements of the Elizabeth Tower, which is currently undergoing a conservation project that’s due to finish next year.

The Links Road business was founded in 1856, just before the London clock tower was completed.

Whilst much of the restoration has taken place in the English capital, Ballantine Castings was charged with remaking more than 400 cast iron tiles for the roof and using molten metal to elegant and long-lasting pieces of work to protect the from the future effects of rain and water ingress.

Ballantine Castings in Bo'ness has played a pivotal role in repairing London's Elizabeth Tower, the home of Big Ben. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
Ballantine Castings in Bo'ness has played a pivotal role in repairing London's Elizabeth Tower, the home of Big Ben. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

The intricate decorative shields which adorn the tower were also remade in Bo’ness, including the brightly coloured thistle shield which represents Scotland.

Once the tiles and shields were cast, cleaned and prepared for fixing, they were transported from Bo’ness to the Palace of Westminster, where other teams could secure them to the restored structure.

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The foundry also cast new tiles for the roof of the Palace of Westminster.

Gavin Ballantine, Ballantine Castings director, said: “Over the years we’ve been fortunate enough to work on many prestigious projects, however, the works undertaken on the Elizabeth Tower will last long in the memory.

“It’s been an honour to play our part in the restoration of such a complex, iconic national structure.”

The Scottish connection to the Elizabeth Tower doesn’t start with Ballantine Castings, though.

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

One of the men who made the Ayrton Light was an Edinburgh native.

John Richardson Wigham, a prominent 19th century lighthouse engineer who was born in Newington, re-imagined the design in 1892 using his knowledge of lighthouse engineering to produce a brighter and more effective light for the tower.

The permanent Ayrton Light was eventually installed using a Wigham lighthouse lamp and over 100 years later the Ayrton Light is still in use.

It is undergoing another revamp as part of the current conservation project and will be upgraded to LED lights to reduce the tower’s environmental impact.

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