Big Ben to fall silent during four-year renovation project A view of Elizabeth Tower, often referred to as Big Ben, in London. (Adrian Pingstone/Wikimedia Commons/Oriez/Wikimedia Commons)
Big Ben to fall silent during four-year renovation project
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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 resounding bongs and tinkling 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.  But it is often used to describe the entire 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 Elizabeth Tower.”

The painstaking renovation work will involve dismantling 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 to the public 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. 

While four years marks the longest pause in Big Ben's history, this is not the first time that the 13.7-metric ton bell has gone silent. Just two months after Big Ben first sounded in 1859, it was cracked by its heavy striker. It was taken out of commission for three years. Big Ben's last major repairs took place between 1983 and 1985.

Intermissions aside, Big Ben emerged as a symbol of resilience - particularly after WWII. As Peter Macdonald writes in “Big Ben: The Bell, the Clock, and the Tower,” “Even during the Blitz, when the House of Commons was totally destroyed and the clock tower sustained superficial damage Big Ben kept going and sent out a daily message of hope and defiance around the world.”

Brits who are not thrilled about Big Ben’s impending silence may find some comfort in the fact that the bell will periodically 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, like Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve.”

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes Big Ben so iconic to London?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (16)
  • ambers-cel
    8/23/2017 - 12:09 p.m.

    The Big Ben's bells carried on announcing its presence during World War II, and the sound gave troops a boost in morale and provided hope.

  • Nicholasv-dav
    8/28/2017 - 09:18 a.m.

    in the article,Big Ben to fall silent during four-year renovation project, it talks about the Big Ben going silent. The UK parliament has decided to work on the clock tower to make it safer for those who work there. This project is going to seize the sound of the bell for four years. The people of England are not very happy about this project.

  • Loganc-dav2
    8/28/2017 - 09:18 a.m.

    Big Ben is iconic to London because it is a symbol of resilience and hope to the people of London. This is shown in paragraph seven when the text says, "Big Ben emerged as a symbol of resilience particularly during WWII". Another reason why Big Ben is iconic is in paragraph seven and the text states, "even during the blitz Big Ben kept going and sent out a daily message of hope". These are the reasons why Big Ben is an iconic symbol to London.

  • Baileys-dav1
    8/28/2017 - 09:28 a.m.

    My opinion on this article, "Big Ben to fall silent during four year renovation project" is that the tower should stop ringing so the tower can be fixed to keep ringing. According to paragraph 4 the tower's cog and gears need to be replaced so the tower keeps working. Also in paragraph 2, it says that they need to because they needed to ensure the safety of the tower. In paragraph 5 it also says that the tower hasn't had major replacement since 1883 and 1985. I think the tower should stop ringing so it can keep working and keep its iconic landmark on England.

  • Isabellei-dav
    8/28/2017 - 02:00 p.m.


    In response to "Big Ben to fall silent during four year renovation project." I agree that big ben should have some work doing to it because the last time it had work done to it was because, "Just two months after big ben sounded it cracked the bell,with the heavy striker". Another item that will need work doing to it is the"Ayraton Light".Another reason is that Big Ben stood throughout World War Two and they didn't need to fix it so they could check if the clock neeeds anything doing from that. It says in the article "They will replace every cog in Big Ben". A third reason it will still chime on important dates. This is why it is a positive thing that Big ben is having work done.

  • Brennanh-dav
    8/28/2017 - 02:04 p.m.

    In response to the article "Big Ben to fall silent during four-year renovation project," I agree that a renovation on the clock tower will be necessary. One reason I agree is that history is history, but some of it should be changed for the better. Another reason is that the safety of people working there must be thought about. It says in the article that Big Ben was paused to “ensure the safety of those working in the Tower.” A third reason is that since Big Ben is so iconic to London, people will always want it there. Even though the big tower is historical, I think the renovation will be a good change that will make Big Ben last forever!

  • jackiek-orv
    8/29/2017 - 11:46 a.m.

    Big Ben is iconic to London because it is a symbol of resilience and hope to the people of London,it says that in the article, "Big Ben emerged as a symbol of resilience particularly during WWII".

  • nylao-orv
    8/29/2017 - 11:51 a.m.

    One reason I agree is that history is history, but some of it should be changed for the better. Another reason is that the safety of people working there must be thought about.

  • kiannar-cel
    8/30/2017 - 06:13 p.m.

    Big Ben is so iconic because It has told the time for many generations beginning in the mid-1800s. Having Big Ben take a break from telling time is a major deal and most people will miss the sound of the clock but all things have to have to get upgrades and get back on their feet, so the renovation for the iconic structure of history is a great step forward for many more generations ton come!

  • Carters-eic
    9/01/2017 - 10:36 a.m.

    I think it will be cool when the bell rings again in four years after they fix it.

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