At noon on 21 August 2017, members of the public are expected to gather to mark a rather historic moment – when scheduled restoration work is to halt the hourly chimes of the most famous clock in the world, Big Ben.
A trademark of London, the bongs of Big Ben, the fabulous bell that lurks inside the tower rising above the Houses of Parliament will remain silent for four consecutive years as conservation work is about to commence.
The Elizabeth Tower, which houses the bells that make up the Great Clock is one of the most famous sites in Britain. As its bells go silent on Monday 21 August, they are not to be heard probably until 2021.
Steve Jaggs, keeper of the clock, stated: “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.”
The Great Clock, comprising the Great Bell and quarter bells operates thanks to a Victorian mechanism that relies on gravity to trigger the hourly chimes. To stop the bells, it is its hammers that will disconnect from the entire clock mechanism. That will allow the clock to proceed to count the time, but now silently. However, experts say they are to ensure the Big Ben comes alive chiming for significant events such as New Year’s Eve or Remembrance Sunday.
The four years of silence period comes after almost never-stopped service for 157 years. The chimes had last fell silent for maintenance in 2007, while in the past they had also been stopped between 1983 and 1985 as part of a refurbishment program.
The Great Bell, widely known as Big Ben weights 13.7 tonnes and strikes every hour, to the note of E natural. Subsequently, the four quarter bells that adjoin the musical, each weight between one and four tonnes and chime every 15 minutes.
The Elizabeth Tower reaching a height of 96 meters as well as the Palace of Westminster are Grade I-listed, the entire site being Unesco World Heritage.
The clock itself is 158 years old as of this year and has three birthdays. Its first birthday fell on 10th of April 1858 when the clock was officially cast; the second fell on 31 May 1859 when the Great Clock started working, and the third when the Big Ben first chimed the hour on 11th July 1859.