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Rediff.com  » News » Big Ben rings its final 12 bongs as 4-year repairs begin

Big Ben rings its final 12 bongs as 4-year repairs begin

August 21, 2017 18:57 IST

London’s iconic Big Ben bell fell silent on Monday for four years of costly renovation work, with its final 12 bongs ringing for midday in front of a crowd of over a thousand people.

IMAGE: eople gather in Parliament Square to listen to the final chimes of Big Ben ahead of a four-year renovation plan. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The midday bongs were the last regular chimes from the famous bell, one of the world’s most famous clock towers of the 19th century, until the repairs to its tower are complete.

 

It will still be used for special occasions, including New Year’s Eve.

There were cheers and applause from a crowd of tourists and onlookers on the green opposite as the final chime rang out.

The Elizabeth Tower, as it is officially known, is said to be the most photographed building in the United Kingdom.

IMAGE: The 13.7-tonne Great Bell has sounded on the hour for 157 years and last fell silent in 2007.  Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The decision to switch it off to protect workers’ hearing has sparked a debate about the length of time it will be silent, with MPs not being told it would be four years, the longest period in its history.

Rs 240 cr
Approx cost of repairing the Big Ben
 

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said “it can’t be right” that the famous bongs will not be heard again until 2021 and has asked for the proposals to be reviewed.

The House of Commons has said it will look again at the length of time Big Ben will be silenced after “concerns” were raised.

Fun facts about the Big Ben

 

>> Big Ben is 2.28 metres tall and 2.75 metres wide

>> Big Ben weighs about 13.7 tonne

>> Big Ben chimes every 15 minutes and can be heard from as far away as 5 miles

>> The diameter of each of the clock's dials is 23 feet. The hour hands are 9 feet long, the minute hands are 14 feet, and the numerals are 2 feet

Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

The £29 million (Rs 240 crore) restoration of the Big Ben was signed off in 2015 by the Commons Administration Committee.

IMAGE: A staff member looks at peeling paintwork and chipped masonry on the stairwell on the Elizabeth Tower ahead of the bell ceasing to ring. Photograph: Victoria Jones/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The 13.7-tonne Great Bell has sounded on the hour for 157 years and last fell silent in 2007. The Great Clock it forms part of is to be dismantled and repaired.

Meanwhile, the Ayrton Light, which shines when the House of Commons and Lords are sitting, will be “off for some time” but the timescale will not be finalised until later this year, it emerged during the weekend.

Located above the Great Bell known as Big Ben, the Ayrton Light - which is switched on in the evening whenever Parliament is sitting - needs to be fully dismantled and restored. A temporary light will replace it, the House of Commons has said.

Installed in 1885, the historic lamp was previously turned off only during both world wars.

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