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Stannah lifts at the heart of Elizabeth Tower refurbishment

Andover lift company, Stannah, has officially completed a new custom designed passenger lift to improve safety and accessibility in the Elizabeth Tower within The Palace of Westminster.

Elizabeth Tower, also affectionately known as ‘Big Ben’, is a well-known landmark in central London, but its distinctive bells fell silent in August 2017 when a project to undertake essential restoration work on the tower began. The bespoke lift project forms part of the restoration works undertaken by building contractor Sir Robert McAlpine (SRM) to preserve the historic environment of the 162-year-old tower.

The unique passenger lift was designed in Andover and has been made to fit into an existing ventilation shaft within the 96-metre-high clock tower and enables easier maintenance access for teams as an alternative to the 334 steps. With clock-keepers and maintenance teams able to view the main journey up and through the ventilation shaft through the glazed glass panels of the lift doors. In addition, the strengthened, hard-wearing walls and floors of the lift also enable it to be used as a goods lift for maintenance items.

The lift shaft contains its own structural skeleton to minimise any unnecessary penetrations into the fabric of the historic building. The energy efficient lift drive machinery is located away from the top of the shaft so as not to disrupt the BBC’s live recording of Big Ben’s chimes.

The main lift is supplemented with a smaller platform lift that, despite the confines at the top of the tower, gives step-free access to the Belfry. The complex and precise engineering of this lift project required close collaboration between Stannah as the lift manufacturers and Birmingham-based engineering lift consultants, SVM Associates.

When it comes to complex lift engineering Stannah has a specialist Major Projects Division – a specialist department who works on technically complex projects, typically in heritage sites such as Elizabeth Tower or the bronze lift in Winchester Cathedral or infrastructure, such as our extensive work for Network Rail. 

“This was an exceptional engineering project, made all the more challenging by site restrictions due to the COVID pandemic and stringent security requirements,” said Alastair Stannah, Managing Director at Stannah Lifts. “The high profile of the Elizabeth Tower means that the eyes of the world were on us to deliver this project on time and on budget. At Stannah, we are always true to our word – we go the extra mile to deliver something we can be proud of for years to come.”