LONDON—Britain’s treasured bell, Big Ben, went silent after it rang at noon on Aug. 21. And to the disappointment of Londoners and tourists alike, this was the last time for its chime for quite a while.
Part of a very famous landmark in England, the big fella has been chiming every hour and to mark holidays and special celebrations for almost all of its 158 years. While most people think of Big Ben as the 315-foot tower, its massive clock and its bells, it’s really just the 13.7-ton bell in the tower. The tower, named the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 in honor of Queen
Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee, is at the north end of Westminster Palace, where the United Kingdom’s Houses of Parliament meet.
But why the silent treatment?
For decades, the tower and complicated clock mechanism have needed major repair work. The overhaul will cost about $37 million and is scheduled to take four years! Since Big Ben rings at a deafening 120 decibels, it won’t ring to mark every hour to protect those working on the clock and tower.
This isn’t the first time Big Ben has gone silent since it first rang on July 11, 1859. Big Ben actually replaced an even larger bell that was cracked beyond repair when it was first tested. Then two months later, Big Ben developed a crack where the hammer struck it.
Workers CHISELED out a square chunk near the bell’s rim, and a smaller hammer was installed about an 1/8th turn away from the repair. The fix took three years! Then to safeguard London, Big Ben went silent for two years during World War I. It has also gone silent for brief times for repairs and to honor the passing of two British prime ministers.
“This is a desperately sad moment—you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” chimed in Member of Parliament Stephen Pound when he heard Big Ben’s last ring.
But Big Ben will still ring out for special occasions while the work is underway.