THE FAMOUS bongs of Big Ben will fall quiet for up to four years as from Monday.
Parliamentary authorities announced that the Great Bell, which has rang out across London almost without a break for the past 157 will sound for the last time at noon on Monday August 21. Renovation work on the Elizabeth Tower isn’t planned to be completed until 2021.
Health and safety concerns have prompted this controversial move in some quarters, but spokesperson said: “The chimes are being stopped to provide a safe environment for the people working on the scaffolding. Constant proximity to the chimes would pose a serious risk to their hearing, and would prevent efficient working.”
Mechanics who currently work on the clock get ear defenders but are only exposed to the bells ringing for short periods each week.
The spokeswoman added: “People will be working on the scaffolding day-in day-out throughout the works, and, while protective headgear could be provided, it is not desirable for individuals working at height to have their hearing obscured as there is concern the ability to hear each other and any alarms could be affected.”
Parliament’s specialist clock makers will however ensure Big Ben can still bong for important national events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday, and one working clock face will remain visible at all times throughout the works.