One of only three surviving, Victorian water-balanced lifts in the UK is to be restored thanks to a £4.8 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The Grade II* listed Leas Lift in Folkestone, Kent, will be repaired and refurbished to return it to its original use following the raising of a total of £6.6 million for the project.
Work will start next year with the Victorian-era lift expected to reopen in 2025.
Cathy Beare, chairwoman of the Folkestone Leas Lift Company Charity, said: “We can’t wait to welcome passengers back 140 years after it was first installed.
“People tell me the hard work starts now, although it certainly feels like we are well on the road to success.”
Eilish McGuinness, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted to support the restoration of this rare, surviving water lift, returning this beautiful and remarkable example of Victorian engineering to its original use connecting seafront and town and creating an anchor and sense of place and connection for the local Folkestone community and visitors.”
One of only eight water balance cliff lifts built nationally, the Leas Lift is one of only three in the UK still operated by its original system, providing transport from the Leas to the seafront and Lower Coastal Park.
The lift operates using water and gravity and is controlled from a small cabin at the top of the cliff.
A spokeswoman for the National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “It has carried more than 36.4 million people since it opened in 1885, in a process that is especially energy efficient.
“The lift has a very small carbon footprint, as it emits no pollution and recycles all the water used to drive the cars.
“The lift was hugely popular in the Victorian era and operated almost continuously for over 130 years, closed only occasionally for repairs and during World War Two.
“The lift closed in 2016 due to safety fears and was placed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register in 2018.
“It has since deteriorated further due to being out of operation and its beach-front location.
“A successful cafe was opened at the height of the pandemic in 2020, breathing life back into the space.”
The other surviving Victorian lifts are at Saltburn, North Yorkshire; and at Lynton and Lynmouth, North Devon. A modern water balance lift was opened at Machynlleth, Powys, Wales, in 1992.
Published: by Radio NewsHub