One of London's most iconic clock towers, the Big Ben, will stop chiming as it shuts down for essential repairs which could cost up to £29 million, it was announced on Tuesday.
The 315ft tower, which was completed in 1856, needs work to repair the clock faces and mechanism, cracks in the tower's masonry and corrosion in the roof, as well as restoring the edging around the clock faces to their original 19th-century colour.
The ElizabethTower, its official name, will be repaired during a three-year project starting in 2017 and cost an estimated £29 million.
"The clock mechanism will need to be stopped for several months in order to carry out essential maintenance. During this period there will be no chimes," a House of Commons spokesperson said.
“We are also investigating whether or not the chiming will have an effect on operatives working at high level, which will need to be taken into consideration. Striking and tolling will be maintained for important events," a spokesperson said.
The clock tower has been chiming non-stop for nearly 157 years and the repairs were found essential to ensure the mechanism can be protected.
The refit could see the clock faces stripped of the black and gold paint that was applied in the 1980s to return them to their Victorian appearance, which is thought to feature green and gold paint.
"Every day our team of highly skilled clock mechanics cares for this Victorian masterpiece but, in order to keep the clock ticking, we must now take the time to thoroughly inspect and restore it.”
"This project will enable us to give one of Britain's most famous landmarks the TLC (tender, loving care) it so desperately needs and deserves," said Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Clock.
Parts of the Great Clock, which was installed in 1859, require urgent investigation and repair and many of the 312 pieces of pot opal glass used to make up each of the clock faces need to be replaced.
During the works, a lift will also be installed as an alternative to the 334 steps to the top of the tower to improve access and safety.
The tower was designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin, and took 13 years to build It was constructed using 2,600 cubic metres of brick and 850 cubic metres of stone, all of which were transported to Westminster by river.
It was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012, to honour the Queen's Diamond Jubilee The clock, designed by Edmund Beckett Denison, began keeping time on 31 May 1859.
Image: A police officer is silhouetted against the sky next to the Big Ben clock tower during sunset in central London. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters