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Big Ben Hushed for Conservation Construction

Bongs will pause for 4 years while restoration work is done; time will pass silently

August 14, 2017

For 157 years, the bells of the Great Clock have sounded the hour over London.

At noon on Monday, August 21, the 13.7-ton Great Bell, also known as Big Ben, will be silenced when workers disconnect the striking hammers from the clock's mechanism so that badly needed repairs can take place.

Big Ben is showing corrosion on the ironwork that holds the glass on the clock face together, and damage to cement stairs is also evident.

In 2016, Sir Robedrt McAlpine won the contract for the preconstruction work and has erected the scaffolding around the tower. The second part of the project's procurement process will be announced this fall.

Workers will start at the top of the building, refurbishing the cast iron roof and the top-most light, then work their way down the tower's sides, removing scaffolding as they go.

The Great Clock itself will be dismantled piece by piece with each cog examined and restored. The four dials will be carefully cleaned, the glass repaired, the cast iron framework renewed, and the hands will be removed and refurbished.

Since the clock mechanism itself will be temporarily out of action, a modern electric motor will drive the clock hands until the Great Clock is reinstated and one working clock face will be visible at all times during the project.

Steve Jaggs, keeper of the clock, said, “I have the great honor of ensuring this beautiful piece of Victorian engineering is in top condition on a daily basis. 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.”

The bells will resume their regular time keeping duties in 2021.

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