Big Ben to be silenced for four years from next week

The bongs of Big Ben are to be silenced for up to four years from next Monday.

Restoration work on the Great Bell is scheduled to begin next week, according to parliamentary authorities.

Big Ben has rang out on the hour almost without fail for the past 157 years.

But at midday next Monday it will sound for the the last time until restoration of the Elizabeth Tower, which hosts the bell, is completed in 2021.

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Parliament said the silencing of the bell is to protect the health and safety of workers implementing the restoration of the tower.

A spokeswoman told the Evening Standard: ‘The chimes are being stopped to provide a safe environment for the people working on the scaffolding.

‘Constant proximity to the chimes would pose a serious risk to their hearing, and would prevent efficient working.

‘People will be working on the scaffolding day-in day-out throughout the works, and, while protective headgear could be provided, it is not desirable for individuals working at height to have their hearing obscured as there is concern the ability to hear each other and any alarms could be affected.’

Scaffolding is erected around the Elizabeth Tower, which hosts Big Ben (Picture: AP)
Scaffolding is erected around the Elizabeth Tower, which hosts Big Ben (Picture: AP)

Big Ben was last silent in 2007 and between 1983 and 1985 as part of previous renovations.

When the bell, which weighs 13.7 tonnes, rings every hour, it chimes to the note of E. It has four quarter bells which chime every 15 minutes.

Despite the break for Big Ben, the bell will still bong for events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.

Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock, said: ‘Big Ben falling silent is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project.

‘As Keeper of the Great Clock 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. Members of the public are welcome to mark this important moment by gathering in Parliament Square to hear Big Ben’s final bongs until they return in 2021.’

(Main picture: AP)

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