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Big Ben Is Taking A Four-Year Break From Next Week

Big Ben Is Taking A Four-Year Break From Next Week

Big Ben

Through wars, economic crises and 14 seasons of Geordie Shore, one thing has remained constant: Every hour since 1859, with very few exceptions, Big Ben’s distinctive bong has rung out across central London.

But the world’s most-famous bells will toll for the final time at midday on Monday, August 21, local time, after which the tower will be closed for repair and restoration works expected to take several years.

While the bells themselves – the 13-tonne hour bell and four smaller quarter bells – still do pretty much what it says on the can, the clock that rings them has been in desperate need of repair for several years. The complex and time-consuming conservation project will see the longest closure in the Big Ben’s 157-year history and is expected to cost around $50 million (£25 million).

Big Ben was first closed just weeks after opening when the hour bell was cracked by a too-heavy striking hammer. A problem reasonably easily fixed, the bell was turned and a lighter hammer installed, though the crack caused by the original is still visible today and is often credited for Ben’s unique timbre.

Repairs were carried out in 1976 and 1983, while the bells were also quieted during the funerals of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher in 1965 and 2013 respectively. Big Ben last fell silent for maintenance in 2007.

According to the Washington Post, three of Ben’s four opal glass clock faces will be concealed at any one time over the next four years while they’re dismantled, cleaned and restored, piece by piece. Modern amenities like an elevator and bathroom will also be installed for use by timekeepers, while it’s hoped upgrades will make the structure more energy-efficient.

While we’ll be treated to a familiar bong at important times like New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Day, there’s no word yet on whether Ben* will continue his legacy online. We’ve reached out to the folks behind the wildly popular @big_ben_clock Twitter account to find out.

If you’re headed for the UK in the next four years and really don’t want to miss out, BBC Radio 4, which broadcasts Big Ben’s chimes live every 15 minutes, will play a recording on the same schedule in the interim.

“After considering various options, we’ve decided that pre-recording Big Ben’s chimes offers the most reliable option whilst the Palace of Westminster carries out its repairs,” a station spokesperson said.

*Not actually Big Ben.

(Lead image: Digital Designs / Flickr)

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