Although still in a fair state of repair considering its age and exposure to the elements, when North Queensferry Heritage Trust (NQHT) took on the restoration of the Light Tower, repairs to the external stonework were the first priority. Internally, the walls are finished with a lime wash and mortar which had to be totally renewed. Some of the stones, which make up the internal flue from the stove were missing and had to be remade.
Two centuries of time, tides and the prevailing winds ensured that decay, to a greater or lesser extent, would almost certainly be present in the cast iron windows and copper roof had suffered a degree of degradation. To reveal the true condition of the lightroom (the domed area on the top) it was removed to a local foundry for detailed testing.
The 2nd of February 2009 saw the restoration project begin in earnest with the erection of all necessary scaffolding and working platforms. On the 4th, the engineering contractor moved in to assess how best to remove the entire lightroom with one lift of the crane.
The lightroom was successfully released from the tower on 5th February 2009 in the presence of many onlookers and children from the local school. The cast iron supports and window frames of the light room showed considerable deterioration and were subsequently replaced using the only original window frame as a template. All the internal light fitments had been removed, many years ago, with the exception of the smoke tube which acted as a flue for the small pipe stove thereby ensuring proper extraction of hot gases from the light itself.
The lightroom was reinstated on the 19th August 2009 on top of the stone tower which in the interim period had been externally re-mortared and internally some of the missing stonework was remade and replaced.
With the tower restored, the Heritage Trust installed a replica light copied from an original held by the National Museum of Scotland. The original Argand lamp, complete with 21 inch diameter parabolic reflector, was adopted by Stevenson, using whale oil as its fuel source. By 1812, this style of light was already installed at Inchkeith and Bellrock lighthouses.
North Queensferry Heritage Trust is grateful for the work of:
- A L Gordon, engineers located in Falkirk: they replicated the lighting system as near as possible to Robert Stevensons design;
- Ballantine Boness Iron Co Ltd: the company took the lightroom from the top of the tower and carried out the refurbishment programme over a six month period. This included remaking all the cast iron windows from the only remaining original window, repainting and re-installing to ensure a perfect fit;
- and Graeme Brown: highly experienced stone mason who completely repointed the sandstone tower externally and remade parts of the stone flue system internally, as well as remortaring the walls as authentically as possible.
Without their skills, this project would not have been possible.