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Count down to completion: installing the restored clock hands

14 July 2021

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Big Ben’s original clock hands are now ready to be brought back to the Elizabeth Tower – three years after they were removed for urgent conservation work.  

Following restoration off-site by skilled experts, the original clock hands have been painted to match the original Prussian Blue colour scheme on the clock dials, first revealed in 2019. As the clock dials are nearing completion, teams working on the project are ready to reattach the original hands to the dials of the Tower – including replacing the temporary hands that have been displayed on the North Dial for over two years.   

The event marks a significant milestone in the restoration, due to complete in 2022.     

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, said: ‘The iconic Elizabeth Tower, with its distinctive clock-face, is a much-missed sight for most tourists as they emerge from Westminster Tube Station – so to hear that we are a step closer to seeing it restored to its former glory is very exciting. 

‘The clock-dials, with their hand-cut glass faces and Prussian blue numerals and hands are just beautiful. 

‘While we are all longing for the sound of Big Ben marking the time, and for the scaffolding to be removed from the tower – I think we will all agree at the unveiling next year, our patience has been worth it. 

‘Thanks to the workmanship of people from across the country, our much-loved 'Big Ben’ – which has survived whatever nature and the ravages of time could throw at it – will be ready to face the next 160 years.’ 

Changes at the top of the Tower

From the 19th July 2021, visitors to Westminster will notice some changes when they walk past the Elizabeth Tower. The North Dial - which looks out over Whitehall and the Embankment - will start to be covered, giving teams better and easier access to the site. The hands will then be brought up to the top of the Tower, with the East Dial hands being attached first. Shortly after, on the 6th August, the East Dial - overlooking the River Thames and Lambeth - will become the visible clockface, with the restored hands continuing to be driven by an existing temporary mechanism.    

Preparatory works began at the end of June, with activity taking place behind the clockfaces with the installation of internal components. The remaining hands will be added over the course of the Summer and the work will complete in September, after which there will be several weeks of testing.     

Once all the hands are in place and tests have completed, more scaffolding will be removed from the upper sections of the Tower later in the year and continuning into 2022. 

The installation is an example of the complex and intricate engineering being employed across the project – all delivered at a great height and within a compact and historically important location. As a result, no compromises can be made when it comes to the safety and security of both the structure and teams involved.

Restoring Big Ben

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