The streets of London will be a bit quieter beginning next week and for the next four years. At precisely noon next week on August 21st (which coincidentally is also the date when Americans will be experiencing a very rare total solar eclipse), the famous bells of Big Ben will silence as a major renovation and restoration endeavor kicks off. The famous clock tower first rang out on May 31, 1859, just over 158 years ago and has only gone quiet from 1983-85 for a period of refurbishment and briefly in 2007 for maintenance.
Decades of weather and water damage are causing the stone tower walls to crumble, the bells themselves are rusting and even the clock faces are eroding. The restoration team will remove the iron roof and have a complete overhaul of all essential workings of the clock to include the suspension spring, the pendulum, and hands of the clock, which all together work as marvels of 1800’s Victorian engineering.
This £29M ($42M USD) conservation project will safeguard the clock on a long-term basis as well as protect and preserve its home, Elizabeth Tower. During the restoration process, at least one of the four clock faces will always remain visible and the restoration team vows to still ring the chimes on very special events, such as New Year’s and Remembrance Sunday.
So, until the bells tolls again, time marches on.
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