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At noon his coming Monday, Big Ben’s world-famous bongs will sound for the last time before major conservation works are carried out. The Elizabeth Tower, home to the Great Clock and Big Ben, is undergoing a complex programme of cleaning and renovation work that will safeguard it for future generations. While this work takes place, the Great Bell will remain silent – apart from marking important national events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.
As part of the restoration programme, the Great Clock 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 removed and refurbished.
As the clock mechanism itself will be temporarily out of action, an electric motor will drive the hands until the Great Clock is reinstated and one of the four faces will always be on view, to enable passers-by to check the time.
In case you didn’t know, the Great Bell weighs 13.7 tonnes and strikes every hour to the note of E. It’s accompanied by four quarter bells, which chime every 15 minutes. Big Ben has marked the hour with almost unbroken service for the past 157 years. The bongs last fell silent for maintenance in 2007, and prior to that between 1983-5, as part of a previous large scale refurbishment programme.
Understandably perhaps, there has been an uproar by those who feel that the chimes should not be stopped while the current refurbishment is carried out. After all, their sound is part of London life.
They are, however, very loud – and particularly so when heard close up. And while I’m one of those who feels that some of our health & safety regulations are over the top, this is one occasion that I fully support those who’ve made the decision to temporarily silence the chimes. I know from the experiences of loved ones, just how debilitating noise induced tinnitus is and while hearing the bells fills me with a sense of pride, I would not put that above the health & safety of those tasked with keeping an important part of our national heritage in good working order!
Monday will not only mark the last of Big Ben’s chimes for some time; it will also mark the start of Cleanzine’s annual Summer break. Our next issue will broadcast on Thursday, 7th September.
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17th August 2017