Last December, Londoners awoke to a BBC report indicating that in 2017 the beloved bongs of Big Ben would be falling silent for an extended period of many months. However, the tower is more sickly than suspected…or someone wasn’t revealing the whole truth of the matter, politicians are posturing. Because this is not good news for London. We’re now talking about four years of silence for the beloved bell’s chimes.
Bongs Go Quiet
The bongs will sound for the final time at 12 noon local time on Monday, 21 August, 2017, before they’re locked in place. The chime mechanism is then disconnected to allow the clock and tower to be restored in a project that is expected to last until 2021. The Great Clock will be dismantled piece by piece and its four handsome dials will be cleaned and repaired.
Near continuous service for 157 years means that much-needed repairs for water ingress are urgently required to Westminster’s famous four-faced clock, the most photographed landmark in the UK. Famous for its reliability, the rusty bells have been striking an E note every hour and a quarter bells chime every 15 minutes since 1859, with few interruptions.
Big Ben is the Bell, Not the Tower
Inside the Gothic Revival-style Elizabeth Tower, re-named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the 13.5 ton Great Bell lends its nickname to the tower and clock as a whole. The landmark tower is located at the northern end of the Palace of Westminster which contains the Houses of Parliament, overlooking Westminster Bridge across the Thames as well as Westminster Abbey.
Getting Inside the Clock
Despite its prominence as a symbol of Great Britain, the Great Clock in the Elizabeth Tower is visited by only 12,000 members of the public annually. In order to gain entry, United Kingdom residents may request a tour via their Member of Parliament or Member of the House of Lords. Escorted visits mean climbing the 334 limestone stairs, as the tower does not currently house an elevator.
Experts say the mechanism on the inside requires renovation and protection from the elements, the exterior requires attention to all its stone work. Despite the extensive repairs pegged at £29 million, “We’re going to keep the impact to an absolute minimum. At all times there will be at least one dial displaying the time,” reports a head caretaker. Small solace can be gathered from assurances that the bells will chime on New Years and Remembrance Sunday.
Big Ben’s Makeover
When the scaffolding eventually comes down, the famous clock atop the Elizabeth Tower may be sporting a new look makeover. “The refit could see the clock faces stripped of the black and gold paint that was applied in the 1980s to return them to their Victorian appearance, which is thought to feature green and gold paint,” the BBC suggested.
We cannot wait for the 2021 party.