An 'iconic' church spire is once again gleaming golden following successful completion of a £400k restoration project that has saved it from potential collapse.

The Crown of Thorns spire of St Michael’s Parish Church in Linlithgow has undergone thorough refurbishment to repair extensive rot in its structural timbers and replace the external cladding.

The eye-catching piece of public sculpture is visible from both the M9 and the Edinburgh to Glasgow train line.

The new cladding, a bronze alloy, returns the spire’s colour to the golden glow of the original structure when erected in 1964. This time, however, the gold is here to stay, aided by modern sealing technology designed to keep the Scottish weather at bay for decades to come.

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Retired architect Brian Lightbody, who led the project, said “From investigative surveys, we knew that the timber structure under the external cladding had been badly affected by water ingress. But the extent of the damage uncovered as all the old cladding was removed has demonstrated that the only alternative to major restoration would have been removal of the entire Crown – in itself a demanding and costly project, and a deeply unattractive prospect for funders.

“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”.

Alan Miller, leader of the church’s Aspire Linlithgow fundraising programme, said: “We focused on the spire as the first stage of St Michael’s planned £5M fundraising journey because we believed it would attract wide interest. But the level of support from the community has far exceeded even our expectations. Through donations from £5 to 5 figures, and the community’s enthusiastic response to a mix of engaging events, close to £220k has been raised to add to the £170k received in grant funding.

“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”.

The Herald: The Crown of Thorns spire of St Michael’s Parish Church The Crown of Thorns spire of St Michael’s Parish Church (Image: Images Above Ltd)

Rev Dr Liam Fraser, minister of St Michael’s, said: “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: “Renewal is what the church is about. From our ‘Jolly Babies’ group for new-borns and parents to free STEM tutoring, from bereavement counselling to hosting an eco-pantry, our growing congregation is actively engaged right across the community.

“It’s fair to say the spire was far more controversial in its early days. Driven forward by the vision of 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.”