The ‘Cock o’ the Steeple’ has left its perch for the first time in 89 years for a well deserved makeover!
Extensive restoration and conservation work to Falkirk’s historic Category A listed Steeple is progressing well. As well as the contractor Land Engineering working on essential stone repairs, windows and the clock face, a notable milestone was achieved with the removal for restoration of the historic weather vane cockerel on Wednesday 3 August.
The Steeple is an important part of Falkirk’s history and the weather vane cockerel has watched over the town from its lofty perch for many years. The weather vane is made of brass and measures 3 feet 4 inches wide by 2 feet 2 inches high. It was taken down for refurbishment work in 1924, which included gilding. When the Steeple was hit by lightning on 17th June 1927 the weather vane was flung from the Steeple into the court at the rear of 104 High Street which was then Wilson and Thomson Grocers. Following this the vane was restored and placed back on the top of the Steeple spire. It bears the date 1814 indicating that it is the original weather vane from the current Steeple.
The poet Robert Buchanan wrote a series of articles in the1870s for the Herald called 'the Cock o' the Steeple' in which he addressed the folk of the town and made a number of comments about individuals and events. After some repairs in 1869 he wrote: "Thank ye bairns! I feel kinna firmer on my perch noo, and can turn my neb to a nor'-easter wi' a feeling o' security I haena kent for a lang time."
The work is part of the wider Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), a £5.6m project running in Falkirk’s town centre that aims to create a more attractive streetscape, boost business, encourage more visitors, residents and retailers to the area and engage the community with Falkirk's heritage. The £750k Steeple project is supported by a Falkirk THI grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland
The project will see both internal and external repair work carried out on the 43 metre (141 feet) structure and is expected to be completed by December 2016.
Councillor Craig Martin, Leader of Falkirk Council said: “The Falkirk Steeple is a real local treasure and iconic symbol for the area. The extensive scaffolding that has been erected underlines the level of restoration investment that is being made. We are grateful for the positive support by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland through the Falkirk THI. Removal and restoration of the weather vane signifies an important milestone for the team.”
Ian Scott Falkirk Local History Society said “I am delighted that the good old ‘cock o’ the steeple’ which has been watching over Falkirk bairns since 1814 has flown down to ground level for a well earned make over! The last time it left its perch was in June 1927 when the Steeple suffered a lightning strike. Two years later after careful repairs it was back up aloft and there it remained in all weathers until this week. Hopefully it will not be too long before it is back in its rightful place fit and ready to face the next century or two.”
Falkirk has had a Steeple at the heart of its community for more than 400 years with the current building celebrating its 200th birthday in 2014.
Once work is complete, the historic cells will be opened to the public to visit and learn more about its history and heritage. Find out more about projects within the Falkirk THI