London’s beloved landmark, Big Ben, is set to fall into silence until 2021. The decommissioning period is set to begin next Monday. Big Ben has known 157 years of uninterrupted time keeping in London. Big Ben will, however, continue to chime for special events such as New Years and Remembrance Sunday.
Parliament’s heritage team began a renovation of Elizabeth Tower, which houses the bell, earlier this year. As part of the project, the tower’s iconic clock will be restored, and each of the dials will be cleaned and repaired, although one working clock face will remain visible at all times. The Ayrton Light, which shines when Parliament is in session, and the tower’s cast-iron roof will also be conserved.
The almost 14 ton bell chimed its first chime on July 11, 1859. It has continued to chime a well-pitched E note every hour since. Other silences from the clock include a period in 2007 and during the 1983-85 restoration.
“Big Ben falling silent is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project,” Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock, said in a statement. “As Keeper of the Great Clock, I have the great honor of ensuring this beautiful piece of Victorian engineering is in top condition on a daily basis. This essential program of works will safeguard the clock on a long-term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home—the Elizabeth Tower.”
The renovation of the UNESCO World Heritage site will cost about $37 million and is intended to ensure that Big Ben will chime for at least another 157 years.