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Big Ben Is About To Fall Silent For Four Years - Here's Why

14/08/2017 2:39 PM IST | Updated 14/08/2017 2:39 PM IST
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The chimes of the world’s most iconic clock are to be silenced for the next four years while major conservation works are carried out.

Big Ben’s famous bongs will sound for the last time at noon on Monday, August 21, before they are paused until 2021 - ending more than 150 years of almost continuous timekeeping.

The Elizabeth Tower, home to the Great Clock and Big Ben, is undergoing a complex programme of renovation aimed at preserving the landmark for future generations.

A man with arguably one of the best job titles in the world, Keeper of the Great Clock Steve Jaggs said: “Big Ben falling silent is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project.

“As Keeper of the Great Clock 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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Big Ben is a huge draw for tourists.

The works will see the clock dismantled piece by piece, with each cog examined and restored. The four dials will be carefully cleaned, the glass repaired, the cast iron framework renewed, and the hands will be removed and refurbished.

The Great Bell, popularly called Big Ben, weighs 13.7 tonnes and strikes every hour. It is accompanied by four quarter bells, which chime every 15 minutes, which will also cease to keep the workers in the tower safe. 

The clock is operated by a custom built Victorian clockwork mechanism, which relies on gravity to trigger the renowned bongs. To stop the bells, the striking hammers will be locked and the bell disconnected from the clock mechanism, allowing the Great Clock to continue telling the time silently - but it will still chime for important national events, including New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday. 

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Big Ben has marked the hour with almost unbroken service for the past 157 years. The bongs last fell silent for maintenance in 2007, and before that between 1983-5 as part of a previous large scale refurbishment programme. 

Scaffolding for the current conservation project started earlier this year, when scaffolding was put up and the first works will see the Ayrton Light (which shines to show that Parliament is sitting) renovated.

The team will then work its way down the building, removing scaffolding on the way.  Most of the clock faces will be covered with the maintenance is underway, but one will always remain visible. 

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