LONDON – British lawmakers, members of the public and tourists on Monday gathered near the London’s Houses of Parliament to hear Big Ben ring the hour for the final time in four years as the iconic clock tower is set to fall almost completely silent while renovations take place.
The famous bell will not be heard ringing on the hour in the UK capital until 2021, though it is still expected to feature on certain dates, including New Year’s celebrations and Remembrance Sunday.
“The Elizabeth Tower, home to the Great Clock and Big Ben, is currently undergoing a complex program of renovation work that will safeguard it for future generations,” said a statement issued by Parliament.
“While this vital work takes place, the Great Bell’s world famous striking will be paused,” it added.
The timepiece is being silenced to protect the ears of the workers involved in the 29 million pound ($37 million) renovation of the Elizabeth Tower, which houses the clock and its bell and was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee, which marked her 60th year on the throne.
The clapper of the bell, which has been producing Big Ben’s sound for 157 years, has been quietened on several occasions in the past due to remodeling – in 2007 and 1983 – but this will be the longest time it has been out of action.
As well as conservation work on the tower itself, the Great Bell will be unmounted for cleaning.
“This essential program of works will safeguard the clock on a long-term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home – the Elizabeth Tower,” said Keeper of the Great Clock, Steve Jaggs of the renovation.
Meanwhile, the clock face is to remain visible and in working order with a modern electric motor until the original mechanism is restored.
Scaffolding has already been erected at the Elizabeth Tower, one of the most photographed sites in the UK, ahead of the reparation work.