London’s iconic Big Ben has sounded off for the last time. The hourly bong of the Big Ben will be missing from everyday London life as it undergoes repairs until 2021.
Big Ben, which has been marking the passage of time in London since 1859, rang for the final time at noon on August 21. The historic Elizabeth Tower, where the Grand Bell is housed, will now face an estimated $37 million restoration project, which is now at the center of controversy in Britain.
Big Ben is actually the moniker for the Grand Bell located inside the Elizabeth Tower. The upcoming repair on the 158-year-old timepiece is not just a simple case of winding up, but rather requires a great amount of work.
On the British Parliament’s official website, it was said that the lengthy period for the repairs is necessary to carry out extensive maintenance and conservation work. The last significant renovation was completed in 1985.
The four-year silencing of the Big Ben is the longest in its 158-year history.
Surveys will be conducted to identify problem areas in the tower such as cracks in the building’s structure. The repairs will also make the tower compliant with updated fire prevention guidelines and health and safety measures for the staff and tourists.
Within the four-year period, all but one of the clock faces on Elizabeth Tower will be covered in white as scaffolding surrounds one of Britain’s best-known national symbols and tourist attractions.
For the Brits, it is difficult to overstate how symbolic Big Ben is to their lives. The chimes indicate the start of the BBC news bulletins. It also signals the start of the day for millions of Londoners.
“Silencing Big Ben is like stopping the heartbeat of our democracy,” the Daily Mail wrote in its editorial.
The Big Ben repairs come at an especially crucial time in Britain, as the country currently negotiates its exit from the European Union. When the last bong sounded from Big Ben, hundreds of parliamentary officials gathered around the tower. Labor MP Stephen Pound was even moved to tears by the temporary closing of Big Ben.
“It is a frightening world… [Big Ben] represents stability and continuity,” Pound told the Telegraph.
Some were also outraged by Parliament’s decision to silence the Grand Bell. Conservative MP David Davis said that there was “hardly a health and safety argument” that would back the decision to silence the bells for four years. Other lawmakers claimed that while they approved the restoration plans, the specifics weren’t revealed to them until recently, NBC News reported.
Prime Minister Theresa May had also intervened, saying it’s not right to silence Big Ben for four years and urged officials to rethink their plans.
The House of Commons Commission, which ordered the bongs to be silenced as repairs are carried out, said it will review plans and see if there’s a faster way to complete the work. The commission previously stated that there would be a serious health risk to workers if the bell continued to chime as repairs are being carried out.
[Featured Image by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images]