More of Big Ben’s £80m makeover revealed as scaffolding removed just in time for NYE

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Workers remove the scaffolding from the restored west dial of the clock on Elizabeth Tower (AFP via Getty Images)
Workers remove the scaffolding from the restored west dial of the clock on Elizabeth Tower (AFP via Getty Images)

Big Ben will soon be showing off its shiny new face as the last of the scaffolding is removed by restorers just in time for the ringing in of the New Year.

The £80 million makeover of the famous bell and Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower has lasted five years.

Big Ben’s dials had been shrouded in cloth and metalwork but will be on full view for its most important annual tradition of chiming in the New Year for Londoners and millions across the globe watching on television.

The clock face on Big Ben is seen as scaffolding surrounding the tower is gradually removed (REUTERS)
The clock face on Big Ben is seen as scaffolding surrounding the tower is gradually removed (REUTERS)

The works, designed to restore the original vision by Parliament’s architects Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin, unveiled a row of six shields above each dial that displays a St George’s red cross on a white background.

Heraldic shields – situated above the Ayrton Light, a lantern which shines when either House of Parliament is sitting – representing four parts of the United Kingdom have also been restored.

The Irish shamrock and Welsh leek have been returned to their original green while the Scottish thistle is green with a bright purple seed head. The English rose has been painted red and white as Barry suggested.

Big Ben repairs (PA Media)
Big Ben repairs (PA Media)

The restoration also replaced all of the panels on the clock faces using and-blown glass.

The dials’ hands, numerals and other details have been repainted bright blue rather than the black long familiar to Londoners.

Nick Sturge, project manager for Sir Robert McAlpine’s special projects, said removing the scaffolding was a “massive milestone” in the £79.7 million project.

“By New Year people will start to see a big difference; they’ll start to get their tower back,” he said. “The roofs will be fully visible along with the four clock faces.”

Big Ben has been covered in scaffolding (AP)
Big Ben has been covered in scaffolding (AP)

Adam Watrobski, principal architect and head of architecture and heritage at the Houses of Parliament, said: “Using historic paint analysis and references including Barry’s original design watercolour, contemporary illustrations and archival photographs, we have recreated the original colour scheme.

“The dials and clock hands are Prussian blue and gold and the adjacent areas make use of the red, white and blue colours of the Union flag.”

The refurbishment was originally expected to be finished this year but it faced delayed as the Covid-19 crisis held up work.

It has been largely silent since 2017 due to repairs on the clock and the tower, only being reconnected for significant occasions.

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