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More scaffolding to be removed from the Elizabeth Tower

22 November 2021

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Another important step in the Elizabeth Tower restoration project starts this week, as scaffolding begins to be removed from around Big Ben’s world-famous clock dials. Three and half years after the entire structure was first covered, all four dials are to be unveiled in full over the next six weeks, revealing the intricate conservation work that has taken place - including the restoration of the original Victorian colour scheme.

An expert team will work to take down scaffolding from around the upper section of the Tower this week and by 31st December 2021, all four clock dials will be on display – in time for the country to welcome in 2022.

New Year’s Eve will mark the last time Big Ben is planned to be struck using the temporary striking mechanism, which has powered the hammer used to strike the bell during the restoration. More scaffolding, including the gantry, will be removed from the lower sections of the Tower in 2022, with the bells – including Big Ben – set to resume their regular striking again in the Spring.

Protecting the Great Clock

Important work is still underway inside the Tower, where expert clock mechanics are carrying out the delicate task of re-installing the Great Clock’s original Victorian mechanism, following restoration off-site.

To protect this priceless piece of engineering during installation, only the East Dial - overlooking the River Thames - will be functioning in the immediate weeks after scaffolding has been removed. This is to prevent dust and debris causing serious harm to the mechanism, having the potential to affect its ability to tell the correct time in the future.

Whilst this is a common procedure for clocks of this scale, it is only a temporary measure. In January, the North and South Dials will be functioning too, with all four clock dials displaying the correct time as soon as crucial works have been completed inside the Tower in early 2022.

The removal of scaffolding and installation of the Great Clock represent two of the most significant stages in the entire restoration project, requiring great levels of skill and expertise – all delivered at a great height and within the confines of a busy working Parliament.  

Original scheme to be displayed in full

When scaffolding was removed from the Tower in September 2020, the initial glimpses of the Victorian colour scheme were first revealed. The floral emblems of all four parts of the United Kingdom are now visible, with the Irish shamrock and Welsh leek returned to their original green and the Scottish thistle’s bright purple seed head restored to its former splendour. The English rose has been painted red and white as in Barry’s original design.  

The current scaffolding removal will reveal additional work that has taken place. The black paint on the stonework around the clock dials has been taken away and certain features have been gilded again. Painstaking work has removed the paint from the stone, using solvents, tiny brushes and lots of elbow grease, so Charles Barry’s original design can be reinstated. New white opalescent glass has also been installed, after the metalwork was cleaned and repainted.  

Big Ben is coming back. For the latest updates, visit the website or subscribe to the Elizabeth Tower newsletter.  


Revealed: the East Dial of the Elizabeth Tower

Scaffolding removed from the East Dial of the Elizabeth Tower in August 2021

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