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