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The Lift Tower's History

The Story

What is now known as the 'National Lift Tower', was previously called the 'Express Lift Tower' and known locally as the 'Northampton Lighthouse'. Construction began in 1980, and was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on the 12th of November 1982. Designed by architect Maurice Walton of Stimpson Walton Bond, the tower is 127.5 metres (418 ft) tall, 14.6 m (48 ft) in diameter at the base and tapers to 8.5 m (28 ft) at the top. The only lift-testing tower in Britain, and one of only two in Europe, it was granted Grade II listed building status on 30 October 1997, making it the youngest listed building in the UK at the time.

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From the time it was built, one shaft was specifically used by the British Standards Institution for type testing of lift safety components. Safety gear testing involved putting the lift cars into free fall with rated mass at tripping speeds, to ensure the lift cars decelerated and stopped within the requirements of the standard. Buffer testing was also performed, which involved impacting them with the maximum and minimum masses at tripping speeds to ensure deceleration was within standard. The aim was to ensure if the lifts went into uncontrolled free fall the safety components stopped the lift. 

The building since being taken under private ownership has been renamed; The National Lift Towe, has an undergone extensive renovations and repairs. The tower was re-opened for business in 2009. 

1978: The structure was commissioned by the Express Lift Company. 

1980: The construction began, following designs by architect Maurice Walton. 

1982: On November 12th the tower was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

1997:  On October 30th the tower was granted Grade II listed building status. After the tower fell out of use when Express Lifts closed. 

1999: The tower and surrounding area was sold to Wilcon Homes for development. 

2009: October 2009 marks the re-opening of what is known today as the National Lift Tower, after becoming privately owned. 

The Tower Today

The National Lift Tower has formed a big part of the Northampton history and has adopted a local title of 'Northampton's Lighthouse'. The tower's base diameter is 15 metres and tapers down to 9 metres at the top. The tower was designed with a distinctive pierced jagged shape, reducing the wind vortex effect, making the tower an ideal structure for abseiling. 


Standing taller than Salisbury Cathedral, the Lift Tower is one of Northampton's most distinctive icons, whilst also claiming stature for being one of the most difficult to miss icons in the area.  

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