Time out for Big Ben

Cleaners at work on Big Ben's clock face last year. Both the clock and tower are now in dire need of repair, which could cost taxpayers £29.2 million (S$62.6 million).
Cleaners at work on Big Ben's clock face last year. Both the clock and tower are now in dire need of repair, which could cost taxpayers £29.2 million (S$62.6 million).PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • A British city has offered to replace the iconic chimes of London's Big Ben with the lesser known sounds of Little John, another bell, while Parliament's Great Clock is being repaired.

Big Ben's "bongs" are aired live on BBC transmissions, but a parliamentary report leaked by British papers this week said what is arguably the world's most famous clock is in urgent need of repairs that could put it out of action for months.

"We feel Nottingham can offer a solution," city councillor Graham Chapman wrote in a letter to the parliamentary authorities in London on Thursday.

The city's Council House is home to Little John, a 10-tonne bell with a deep E-flat tone. It shares the name given to legendary Nottingham outlaw Robin Hood's sidekick, who was ironically dubbed Little John because he was so huge.

Big Ben is the nickname for the bell of the clock tower that adjoins Parliament building on the banks of the River Thames in London, but the name is often used to refer to the whole tower.

Parliament officials were not immediately available for comment, while Nottingham said it had received no response to its offer.

The leaked report laid out a £29.2 million (S$62.6 million) plan for repairing the clock, which could see it shut down for four months, the longest stoppage in its 156-year history.

The whole of the Westminster complex, which houses Parlia-ment's upper and lower chambers, is crumbling and in need of billions of pounds worth of restoration. It could take years, so lawmakers might have to meet elsewhere.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2015, with the headline 'Time out for Big Ben'. Print Edition | Subscribe