Skip to main content

Elizabeth Tower decorative shields: before and during the conservation

1 March 2020 (updated on 30 March 2021)

There is no description available for this image (ID: 155444)

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:

  • 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
  • The shamrock for Ireland
  • The thistle for Scotland
  • The red and white rose of the Tudor dynasty
  • The fleur-de-lis for France (England claimed the throne of France)
  • The portcullis for the Tudors (Beaufort family, Henry VII's mother)
  • The leek for Wales
  • 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. A specialist iron foundry - Ballantine Castings, in Bo'ness, Scotland - undertook the work and once completed, the shields were returned to the Tower to be fixed into their original position for the delicate process of gilding. 

Above: The shields prior to restoration in 2017. © Adam Watrobski. 

In the montage at the top of this article, you can see 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, showing the decorative shields with the gold gilding that was completed in late summer 2019. 

Find out more about the symbols of the UK and the Elizabeth Tower on the Parliamentary Archives blog.

Image: ©UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Mark Duffy

Big Ben - My Favourite Room

Charlotte Claughton, Senior Project Leader, shows us round her favourite rooms at the top of the Elizabeth Tower - just don't look down!

Video thumbnail

Stay up to date

Elizabeth Tower sign up button.jpg

To receive the latest news about the Elizabeth Tower conservation project and Big Ben updates.

Sign up