How the high life has taken its toll on Big Ben

Big Ben will fall si­lent on Mon­day for four years. But why?

The Wharf - - Details - GB

It’s all over for Lon­don.

What, be­cause of Brexit? No, I have a plan. Have you seen the film Pass­port To Pim…

…No, not Brexit.

The ravens have left the tower? Lon­don Bridge is fall­ing down? The bells of St Cle­ments have be­come citrus in­tol­er­ant? What is it?

Big Ben is go­ing quiet.

What? Un­think­able. Why?

The bells are go­ing quiet for four years while the El­iz­a­beth Tower un­der­goes ren­o­va­tion and for health and safety rea­sons the work­ers must be able to ply their trade with­out be­ing deaf­ened on the hour.

I must go there straight away, camp out by the cam­panile and en­joy the last few weeks of chimes.

Too late chum. It’s all hap­pen­ing from noon on Mon­day. Come one o’clock – noth­ing, si­lence, zilch. How­ever, mem­bers of the pub­lic are be­ing called on to mark the mo­ment by gath­er­ing in Par­lia­ment Square to hear Big Ben’s fi­nal bongs un­til they re­turn in 2021.

What does Steve Jaggs, keeper of the clock, say? He must be fu­ri­ous.

“I have the great hon­our of en­sur­ing this beau­ti­ful piece of Vic­to­rian en­gi­neer­ing is in top con­di­tion on a daily ba­sis. This es­sen­tial pro­gramme of works will safe­guard the clock as well as pro­tect­ing and pre­serv­ing its home – the El­iz­a­beth Tower.”

OK, less an­i­mated than I as­sumed for such an un­prece­dented mo­ment.

Well not quite. Big Ben fell si­lent for main­te­nance in 2007. The bells also stopped be­tween 1983 and 1985 as part of a re­fur­bish­ment pro­gramme.

But what about New Year’s Eve? Will Lon­don’s fa­mous rag­bag col­lec­tive of rev­ellers and drunks have to gather round a Beefeater who will strike a tea­spoon against a Cham­pagne glass at the ap­pro­pri­ate mo­ment? Think of the lo­gis­tics. I don’t even know if Beefeaters have le­git­i­mate ac­cess to Cham­pagne glasses.

Don’t fret. Ap­par­ently con­ces­sions are go­ing to be made for New Year’s Eve and Re­mem­brance Day when the bells mark the start of two min­utes’ si­lence.

Well, at least we can still tell the time.

Again, some­thing of a cu­rate’s egg there, chum. As part of the project, the Great Clock it­self will be dis­man­tled piece by piece. The four di­als will be care­fully cleaned, the glass re­paired, the cast iron frame­work re­newed, and the hands will be re­moved and re­fur­bished. Hey, hey. Don’t cry. One work­ing clock face will re­main vis­i­ble at all times through­out the works.

It’s not that. I’ve just thought… has any­one bro­ken the news to Sir Trevor McDon­ald?

The El­iz­a­beth Tower con­tains Big Ben

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.