So long, bong: Big Ben in London is going silent for four years of repairs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 1:23pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 August, 2017, 8:45pm

Big Ben, the giant bell in the clock tower at Britain’s Houses of Parliament, will be silenced from next week to allow four years of repair work.

The famous gongs that ring across the River Thames will stop at noon on Monday, August 21 and will only resume regular service in 2021. The bell will still ring for major events such as Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve.

The 160-year-old Elizabeth Tower, where the 16-tonne bell and the clock reside, will undergo a US$38 million restoration that will see the clock dismantled and its four dials cleaned and repaired. The bell will also be cleaned and checked for cracks.

Big Ben has fallen silent before since it first sounded in 1859. The last extensive conservation works took place from 1983 to 1985. But the upcoming work will be its longest period of silence.

“This historic clock is loved by so many people. It is both an honour and a great responsibility to keep it in good working order for public enjoyment,” said Steve Jaggs, the keeper of the clock.

“Every day our team of highly skilled clock mechanics cares for this Victorian masterpiece but, in order to keep the clock ticking, we must now take the time to thoroughly inspect and restore it.”

The BBC broadcasts Big Ben’s bongs before the radio news every evening through a microphone in the belfry. The British broadcaster first tested the sound of substitute bells, before saying it will use a recording.