Big Ben will fall silent for four years for restoration

From next week

Big Ben’s famous bongs will fall silent for up to four years as the UK’s iconic clock under goes essential works.

From next Monday at noon the clock will fall silent until 2021 while restoration work is carried out on the Elizabeth Tower which houses the ‘Great Clock’ and ‘Great Bell’.

A parliamentary spokesperson said that the Great Bell will be silenced to ‘ensure the safety of those working in the Tower’.

“The chimes are being stopped to provide a safe environment for the people working on the scaffolding”, the spokesperson said.

Clock mechanics who currently work on Big Ben wear defenders but are only exposed to the bells for short period of time ‘constant proximity to the chimes would pose a serious risk to their hearing, and would prevent efficient working.’

“People will be working on the scaffolding day-in day-out throughout the works, and, while protective headgear could be provided, it is not desirable for individuals working at height to have their hearing obscured as there is concern the ability to hear each other and any alarms could be affected,” the spokesperson added.

The bongs last fell silent for maintenance in 2007, and before that between 1983-5 as part of a previous large-scale refurbishment programme. 

The Great Bell, popularly called Big Ben, weighs 13.7 tonnes and strikes every hour to the note of E. It is accompanied by four quarter bells, which chime every 15 minutes.

Big Ben has marked the hour with almost unbroken service for the past 157 years.

To stop the bells the striking hammers will be locked and the bell will be disconnected from the clock mechanism, a modern electric motor will drive the clock hands silently until the Great Clock is reinstated.

However, the bell will still strike for important national events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.

Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock said: “I have the great honour of ensuring this beautiful piece of Victorian engineering is in top condition on a daily basis.

“This essential programme of works will safeguard the clock on a long-term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home – the Elizabeth Tower.

“Members of the public are welcome to mark this important moment by gathering in Parliament Square to hear Big Ben’s final bongs until they return in 2021.”

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