Over the next four years critical restoration work to ensure Big Ben’s longevity will take place, essentially rendering the icon mute.
The bell in the 158-year-old clock tower will be turned off on Monday, just after midday. Although the restoration work on the building has already begun, the BBC quotes parliamentary authorities as saying the decision to switch off the clock was made to protect workers carrying out the repairs.
“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 clock’s keeper Steve Jaggs told BBC.
Restoring Big Ben
Apart from restoration work to the building, some work will go into making the tower more energy efficient. Some essential amenities including a lift, toilet and kitchen will also be installed.
The work to the clock itself include repair to the clock hands and main mechanism. The clock will keep telling the time on occasions when the faces are not covered for repair. At these times it will run with an electric motor.
Another item on the list for restoration is the Ayrton Light. Nestled at the top of the tower, above the clock and below its steeple, is the Ayrton Light. Installed in 1885, the light shines whenever parliament is sitting. The light’s metal housing will be repaired, as it has fallen victim to rust and corrosion.
While the restoration in underway the BBC’s Radio 4, which broadcasts Big Ben’s chime live every day, will use a recording instead. The station plays the chimes daily at 18:00 and 00:00 to signal the evening news and midnight. The tradition began in February 1924 – two years after Radio 4’s inception.
The project is believed to reach completion in 2021, but until then even clock towers need rest.