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Big Ben celebrates 160th birthday as conservation continues

9 July 2019 (updated on 30 March 2021)

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Big Ben, the Great Bell of the Elizabeth Tower turns 160 on 11 July 2019, as the vital conservation programme continues, securing the future of one of the world's best loved landmarks for generations to come.

The Great Bell's 160th anniversary also marks the halfway stage in the Elizabeth Tower restoration project, the most extensive programme of conservation ever carried out to the Tower. The project began in 2017 and is due for completion in 2021.

The Great Clock

The Great Bell, Big Ben, has remained in situ throughout the works, while a team of expert clock makers painstakingly dismantled the Great Clock itself, taking apart the 11-tonne mechanism and winching thousands of components down from the Tower. An electric motor has been installed to drive the emporary hands of the clock whilst the mechanism is restored, and the Great Bell will only strike for Remembrance Sunday and New Year's Eve whilst work continues.

“The Great Clock and its bell have become much loved representatives of our democracy and the conservation works currently taking place will ensure that it continues to be so for generations to come,” said Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock.

Essential conservation work

Conservation work to the Elizabeth Tower is progressing well. Major milestones include the completion of the new-look North Dial, which has been re-glazed, repainted and re-gilded in the original Prussian blue and gilt Victorian colour scheme and can be seen from below.

“This is a complex programme, with hundreds of experts around the country working on different elements of the project. Their hard work and dedication has meant we have reached this stage with many major components restored and ready to go back in place. It also means that late next year we will be in a position to start taking down scaffolding to reveal this much-loved landmark restored to its former glory,” said Charlotte Claughton, Senior Project Leader.

Restoration work at the Elizabeth Tower: happy 160th birthday Big Ben

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