West Lothian church spire worth its weight in gold after £400k revamp

An iconic West Lothian church spire has been restored to its original gold following a £400,000 renovation.

St. Michael’s Parish Church in Linlithgow has proudly displayed the ‘Crown of Thorns’ spire since it was constructed in 1964.

However, the iconic landmark had to be saved from potential collapse after decades of blustery weather left it in a weakened state.

Now, the Crown of Thorns’ structural timbers have been replaced and its original shimmering gold has been restored. The work was made possible by funds collected from charitable organisations and the local community.

According to retired architect Brian Lightbody, who headed the project, the only alternative to major restoration would have been completely removing the entire Crown. He stated that this would be a “demanding and costly project”.

Lightbody continued: “The location, design and materials involved have made this an unusually complex project. Whether designing a unique scaffolding structure, replacing timber sections in situ without destabilising the whole structure, or sealing sections of cladding perfectly around complex pyramidal shapes at height, our architects Pollock Hammond, main contractors Mathesons Ltd, engineers Blyth & Blyth and sub-contractors ADPC Ltd have each applied a lifetime of skill and experience to produce an outstanding job.

“We’re confident the spire will stand proud for generations thanks to the quality of their work.”

Minister of St Michael’s Rev Dr Liam Fraser added: “Sixty years on from the installation of the spire in 1964, the excitement this project has generated locally is astonishing. Linlithgow’s Facebook groups have been awash with images of the renewed spire as it has emerged from the scaffolding.”

“Both a beloved symbol of the town and a representation of Christ’s Crown of Thorns, it speaks to people in many different ways: of certainty, of renewal, and even of eternity. But the most common reactions on the street at present are simply ‘Wow!’ or ‘Amazing!’”.

He continued: “It’s fair to say the spire was far more controversial in its early days. Driven forward by the vision of the then St Michael’s minister Very Rev Dr David Steel, the design was variously dismissed as a rocket, a wigwam or even left-over scaffolding.

“But over time, it has come to be hailed as a masterful marriage of modern design to historic architecture. The church is here for today and tomorrow, not just yesteryear.”

According to leader of the Aspire Linlithgow fundraising programme for the church Alan Miller, the spire is the first stage of a planned £5 million “fundraising journey” for St Michael’s.

He stated: “We are hugely grateful to our grant funders Historic Environment Scotland (£90.4k), The Church of Scotland General Trustees (£40k), The Scottish Landfill Trust (£30k) and the Pilgrim Trust (£10k).

“But everyone who has donated in any way should feel a sense of pride that their contribution is reflected in the gleam of the renewed spire.”

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