MPs Criticise 'Entirely Bonkers' Decision To Silence Big Ben For Four Years

Fireworks Big Ben

Big Ben is about to fall silent for four years

The bell has sounded the time from Parliament's clock tower since 1859, but on Monday it's due to fall silent while fix work is carried out on the Victorian clock and the tower. Members of public are being asked to gather in parliament square to hear the last bongs from Big Ben for the time to come.

As well as conservation work to the tower, the Great Clock will be dismantled piece-by-piece and its four dials will be cleaned and repaired. Constant proximity and prolonged exposure to the chimes would pose a serious risk to the hearing of those working on the scaffolding or in the Tower. The silence is to protect workers during a four-year, £29m-conservation project that includes fix of Elizabeth Tower, which houses the Great Clock and its bell. It isn't due to resume regular service until 2021. Davis told LBC radio on Tuesday that "there's hardly a health and safety argument, it's replacing a bell".

Big Ben has been stopped several times since it first sounded in 1859, but the current restoration project will mark its longest period of silence.

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Big Ben last fell silent for maintenance in 2007, and prior to that during a major revamp between 1983 and 1985, however this is expected to be the longest period of silence since the chimes began 158 years ago. That's all well and good, Steve, but what are you going to be doing for the next four years? The building will also be made more energy efficient. As the clock mechanism itself will be temporarily out of action, a modern electric motor will drive the clock hands until the Great Clock is reinstated. It would also be unacceptable for them to be asked to wear ear defenders for that length of time.' Asked why the work would take four years, Mr Jaggs said: 'You have to get everything right.

The painstaking renovation work will involve dismantling and restoring each cog of the Great Clock, piece-by-piece. Workers on the scaffolding could also be startled by the loud sudden noise, with consequences for their own safety and those of other people in and around the tower.

Parliament's team of clock makers have a well-practiced method of stopping the bells.

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The hammers which have struck the 13.7 tonne bell every hour for most of the last 157 years will be locked and disconnected from the clock, although the bongs will still sound for important events such as New Year's Eve celebrations. The whole process is expected to take approximately half a day to complete.

The clock strikes every hour on the hour to the note of E, with four smaller bells chiming every 15 minutes.

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