LONDON • Big Ben, the symbol of London, will fall silent for four years for renovation works to take place on Parliament's bell, clock and tower.
The 13.7-tonne bell must stop ringing to ensure the safety of workers on the restoration project, the House of Commons said yesterday.
It chimes every 15 minutes and has rung out largely uninterrupted for 157 years.
The hammers will be locked and disconnected from the clock next Monday, although the bongs will still sound for key events such as New Year's Eve.
The clock that houses Big Ben will be dismantled and each cog examined and restored. The clock's four dials will be cleaned and repaired, their cast-iron framework renewed, and the hands removed and refurbished.
"This essential programme of works will safeguard the clock on a long-term basis, as well as protect and preserve its home, the Elizabeth Tower," said Mr Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock.
One working clock face will remain visible at all times, telling the time silently, and powered by a modern electric motor until the original clockwork mechanism is reinstated.