The chimes of one of the world’s most famous clock towers of the 19th century, the Big Ben in London, will fall silent for essential repairs for four years from next week. The regular bongs of the Elizabeth Tower, as it is officially known, will sound for the final time at midday next Monday before being disconnected to allow the clock and surrounding tower to be restored.
The Great Bell has sounded on the hour for 157 years. It last fell silent in 2007 and before that, for major refurbishments between 1983 and 1985. Parliamentary authorities said stopping Big Ben – the commonly used name for the Palace of Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower – would protect workers carrying out the repairs.
However, it will still sound for important events including New Year’s Eve and Remembrance on Sunday. “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,” said Steve Jaggs, the clock’s keeper.
The Big Ben, part of the Palace of Westminster Parliament complex in central London, traditionally strikes an E note every hour, and every 15 minutes four “quarter bells” chime.
To stop the chimes, the striking hammers of the bell will be locked until 2021. It weighs 13.7 tonnes. Elizabeth Tower is said to be the most photographed building in the UK.
The project’s principal architect Adam Watrobski told the BBC the works would install new amenities in the tower, including a lift, toilet and kitchen. The essential maintenance will also include making the structure more energy efficient.