National Lift Tower

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Lift Tower in 2009

The National Lift Tower (previously called The Express Lift Tower and known locally as the 'Northampton Lighthouse') is a lift testing tower built by the Express Lift Company (a lifts division of the General Electric Company (GEC)[1]) off the Weedon Road in Northampton, England. The structure was commissioned in 1978 with construction commencing in 1980, and was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 12 November 1982. Since 1997 it has been a Grade II Listed Building.[2]


Designed by architect Maurice Walton of Stimpson and Walton, the tower is 127.45 metres (418.1 feet) tall, 14.6 m (47.9 ft) in diameter at the base and tapers to 8.5 m (27.9 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, at the time making it the youngest listed building in the UK.

In January 1997, the tower fell out of use after Express Lifts was taken over by Otis and subsequently closed. In 1999, the tower and surrounding land was sold to Wilcon Homes for development.

The tower in 2006

The building is now privately owned and has been renamed the National Lift Tower. Following extensive renovation and repairs, the tower was re-opened for business in October 2009. The tower is used by lift companies for research, development, testing and marketing. As well as being a resource for the lift industry, the building is also available to companies requiring tall vertical spaces, for example companies wishing to test working-at-height safety devices.

There are six lift shafts of varying heights and speeds, including a high speed shaft with a travel of 100 metres and a theoretical maximum speed of 10 m/s.

The tower's renovation was officially completed in July 2010.[3] Further building work was planned with planning permission being sought to build a visitor's centre incorporating a 100 seater auditorium and cafe. However, permission for this structure was denied by Northampton Borough Council in March 2012.[4]

Abseiling at the tower has been going on since May 2011 with over £140,000 having been raised for charity in the period to May 2012. Northampton Borough Council has now granted approval for it to be used up to 24 times a year for abseiling.[5]


The tower was lampooned by broadcaster Terry Wogan as the "Northampton lighthouse". He wrote a section of the book, Icons of Northamptonshire (2014) about it.[6]

The local paper Northampton Chronicle and Echo published an article for April Fools' Day 2008, claiming that the lift tower would be pulled down. This caused distress to many residents of the local area, with comments made on the paper's website regarding the lack of respect of the local council for not publicly announcing it.[7] Another April Fools' Day story that ran in the same paper suggested the tower would be redeveloped as a mooring station for airships.

The Lift Tower is featured in the science fiction novel Time to Repair by Mark Gallard.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Freshwater, R. (2010-08-15). "Roots of the Company - The rise and fall of the GEC empire". Retrieved 3 July 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ 'Northampton Lift Tower renovation completed'
  4. ^ "Northampton Lift Tower centre plans rejected" BBC News 13 March 2012
  5. ^ "Northampton lift tower gets permanent abseiling status" BBC News 3 September 2014
  6. ^ "Icons of Northants celebrated in new book" Northamptonshire Telegraph 7 October 2014
  7. ^ 'Why weren't we told about lift tower?'

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°14′19″N 0°55′19″W / 52.23861°N 0.92194°W / 52.23861; -0.92194