The famous London clock, Big Ben, is set to fall silent for four years while essential renovation works are carried out.
Big Ben, set inside the Elizabeth Tower in Parliament Square, will fall silent on August 21st.
The hammers which strike the 13.7 tonne bell every hour are to be locked and disconnected from the clock. However the clock will still strike for important events such as New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“This essential programme of works will safeguard the clock on a long term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home, the Elizabeth Tower,” says Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock.
The Palace of Westminster, set on the River Thames, is a world heritage site and a major tourist attraction. Steve Jaggs hopes the public will gather in nearby Parliament Square in large numbers to hear the final bongs.
The Elizabeth Tower, which stands at 96 metres, is believed to be the most photographed building in the UK. It is already partly enveloped in scaffolding as part of a renovation project.
The clock housing Big Ben will be dismantled. Every cog will be examined and restored. The four dials will be cleaned and repaired. Their cast iron framework will be renewed while the clock hands are removed and refurbished.
One working clock face will stay on show at all times. However it will tell the time silently. Until the original clockwork mechanism is put back, it will be powered by a modern electric motor.
The works are set to be completed in 2021.
It is understood that BBC Radio 4 will employ a recording of Big Ben before its news reports during the absence.
Image credit: Nathan Hammonds, Flickr cc.