Big Ben to fall silent during four-year renovation project
Since it first rang out in 1859, Big Ben has become one of London’s most iconic landmarks. It faithfully marks every hour and quarter hour with bongs and chimes. But a four-year conservation project will soon cause the historic clock tower to fall silent. This is according to Tara John reporting for TIME.
Big Ben is a name that technically refers to the bell inside the tower. It is often used to describe the whole structure. The bell will sound for the last time at noon on August 21. It is scheduled to resume its signature peals in 2021.
The hiatus was prompted by upcoming renovations on Elizabeth Tower. The tower houses both Big Ben and the Great Clock. The clock adorns the facade of the structure. According to a statement from the UK Parliament, Big Ben was paused to “ensure the safety of those working in the Tower.”
“As Keeper of the Great Clock I have the great honor of ensuring this beautiful piece of Victorian engineering is in top condition on a daily basis,” says Steve Jaggs. He is the Parliamentary clock keeper.
“This essential program of works will safeguard the clock on a long term basis. It will protect and preserve its home.”
The painstaking renovation work will involve taking apart and restoring each cog of the Great Clock. The clock will be covered while the process is ongoing. But one of its faces will remain visible at all times.
Adam Watrobski is the principle architect of the project. He tells the BBC that the renovation plan also includes improvements to Ayrton Light. It tops the tower. It shines when parliament is sitting.
Four years marks the longest pause in Big Ben's history. But this is not the first time that the bell has gone silent. It was cracked and taken out of commission for three years in 1859. Big Ben's last major repairs took place between 1983 and 1985.
Big Ben emerged as a symbol of resilience particularly after WWII.
“Even during the Blitz, when the House of Commons was totally destroyed and the clock tower sustained superficial damage Big Ben kept going. It sent out a daily message of hope and defiance around the world.” This is according to Peter Macdonald writing in Big Ben: The Bell, the Clock, and the Tower,
Brits who are not thrilled about Big Ben’s coming silence may find some comfort in the fact that the bell will sometimes make its presence known over the next four years. According to the parliament’s statement, “specialist clock makers’ are working to ensure that the bell sounds on important occasions."
Such occasions include Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve.