Londons-Big-Ben-to-fall-silent-for-months. LONDON, The iconic clock tower bells at the Houses of Parliament in London are to fall silent while urgent repairs are carried out.
There will be no booming bongs from Big Ben starting early next year.
British government officials announced Tuesday that renovations costing £29 million ($42 million) are required for the crumbling tower and the 157-year-old clock. Work is expected to take three years. Big Ben — the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock — will not be sounded for “several months,” although the chimes will sound on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve.
Steve Jaggs, Parliament’s Keeper of the Great Clock, insisted: “The tower is not unstable, but unless we do something now it’s going to get a lot worse.
“We need to do the work pretty soon to keep this for future generations to enjoy.”
Extensive repair work to the 160-year-old building will also see the hands removed from each of the four faces of the clock, and temporary removal of the 13-foot pendulum.
The 28 light bulbs behind each clock face will be replaced with energy-efficient LED bulbs that can change color, so the clock tower can be tinted to mark major celebrations or commemorations.
Currently the only way to the belfry is via a 334-step spiral staircase, but refurbishment work will see an elevator installed.
Officially named the Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, the structure survived German bombing raids during World War 2, although one of its clock faces was blown out.
Although the tower is popularly known as Big Ben, more accurately it is the name of the largest of its five bells, which weighs in at 13.5 tons. The four smaller bells chime every 15 minutes, while Big Ben sounds on the hour.
A report last year said the neo-Gothic structure needs major repairs that could cost up to £7 billion ($11 billion) to remove the risk of a “catastrophic failure.” One option under discussion would see lawmakers move out for up to six years while the work is done.
By Martin Smith