Big Ben to bong in the festive season

22 December 2017

The nation will hear its favourite chimes this Christmas and New Year despite essential repairs, as Big Ben’s bongs are restored for the festive season.

The hour bell, Big Ben, will announce the festive period with the 9am strike. All the bongs will be reinstated from 9am Saturday 23 December, and will cease following the 1pm strike on New Year’s Day.

The New Year’s Eve fireworks display will be set off from the London Eye, as has been done in previous years.

In August it was announced that the Westminster chimes would fall silent for the next four years during crucial repairs to the Elizabeth Tower, but while the work stops over the festive season, and whilst the clock mechanism is still in place, Parliament has taken the opportunity to ensure the iconic bongs ring out to celebrate the holiday period.

In early 2018 the Great Clock will be dismantled piece by piece with each cog examined and restored. Whilst the clock mechanism is temporarily out of action, a modern electric motor will drive the hands until it is reinstated. In line with our promise to sound the bells whenever possible, this year, while the Great Clock is still in place, all the bongs will sound over the Xmas period. Once the Great Clock has been removed, we will ensure that the Great Bell can sound for important national events such as Remembrance Sunday and New Year.

Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock, said: 'The joyful striking of Big Ben will ring in the festive season for Londoners, visitors, and the millions of viewers who use it as a focal point to celebrate the New Year. Big Ben falling silent has been a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project, but it has always been planned that its chimes would ring out across Whitehall for special occasions, where possible. As Keeper of the Great Clock, my team of clock makers and I have the great honour of ensuring this beautiful piece of Victorian engineering remains an accurate time piece on a daily basis. This essential programme of works will safeguard it future generations, as well as protecting and conserving the Elizabeth Tower.’

The Elizabeth Tower, home to the Great Clock and Big Ben, is currently undergoing a complex programme of conservation works to safeguard the 158-year-old iconic clock for generations to come. The Great Bell’s world famous chimes will be paused for several years to ensure the safety of those working in the Tower, while vital restoration work takes place.

In August, Parliament’s expert team of clock mechanics disconnected Big Ben from the clock mechanism and lowered the weights to the base of the tower, resulting in the famous chimes being temporarily stopped to provide a safe environment for the people working on the scaffolding. In advance of the festive period, the clock mechanics will be winding up the weights and reconnecting the hammers ready for Big Ben to strike again. The Great Clock and the pendulum will then be carefully adjusted to ensure accuracy on the day.

More news on: Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, House of Commons news, Commons news

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