The iconic London landmark will go silent for a major restoration costing about $37.6 million
The familiar bongs of Big Ben, one of London’s most beloved landmarks, are set to fall silent next Monday. After 157 years of mostly uninterrupted service, Big Ben’s hammers will be disconnected after the clock’s final tolls, at noon on August 21. The bell is scheduled to be out of commission until 2021, but it will still chime for major events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday in November). Parliament’s heritage team began a renovation of Elizabeth Tower, which houses the bell, earlier this year. As part of the project, the tower’s iconic clock will be restored, and each of the dials will be cleaned and repaired, although one working clock face will remain visible at all times. The Ayrton Light, which shines when Parliament is in session, and the tower’s cast-iron roof will also be conserved.
The 13.7-ton bell, which strikes to the note of E every hour, chimed for the first time on July 11, 1859, and was previously silent for maintenance in 2007 and during the tower’s last major restoration, from 1983-85. “Big Ben falling silent is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project,” Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock, said in a statement. “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. 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 renovation of the UNESCO World Heritage site will cost about $37.6 million and hopefully ensure that Big Ben will chime for at least another 157 years.