Elizabeth Tower decorative shields: Before and during the conservation

PC-Elizabeth Tower shields ©UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/Jessica Taylor

On each side of the Elizabeth Tower, above the Belfry and above the Ayrton Light, are rows of newly restored shields decorated with symbols representing the UK and its history.

The eight shields between the stone arcaded belfry stage and the cast iron roof represent the following on each side (from left to right).

1. A combined emblem comprising the symbols of the three kingdoms: the red and white rose of Tudor England, thistle for Scotland and shamrock for Ireland, all assembled in one shield

2. The shamrock for Ireland

3. The thistle for Scotland

4. The red and white rose of the Tudor dynasty

5. The fleur-de-lis for France (England claimed the throne of France)

6. The portcullis for the Tudors (Beaufort family, Henry VII’s mother)

7. The leek for Wales

8. The pomegranate for Catherine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife)

The red and white Tudor rose representing England appears at each corner.

A row of five shields is repeated at a higher level above the Ayrton Light stage.

As part of the conservation process each shield was carefully removed from the tower in order to be catalogued, surveyed to ascertain what repair and restoration work was required. Once completed, the shields were returned to the tower to be fixed into their original position for the delicate process of gilding. 

The photo montage above shows the Elizabeth Tower before the restoration project started in 2017, the shields reattached before gilding at the very top, above the Ayrton Light, and the bottom image, taken in February 2020, shows the decorative shields with the gold gilding that was completed in late summer 2019.

Top left and bottom image: ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Top right image: ©UK Parliament/Mark Duffy

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