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Big Ben: Countdown to New Year

21 December 2018

Image of UK Parliament portcullis

The second episode of a documentary series that goes behind-the-scenes as the Elizabeth Tower undergoes essential repairs is due to air on Channel 4 on 30th December, at 9pm.

The documentary, produced by ITN Productions, is the second in a three-part series presented by architectural historian and Director of the Landmark Trust, Dr. Anna Keay.

In episode 1 (November 2017), Dr. Keay introduced viewers to the history of Big Ben, which has been keeping time for the nation since 1859. The programme revealed in intricate detail how a dedicated team of experts from around the UK are managing the huge task of restoring the Grade I listed landmark, combining ancient craftsmanship with cutting edge modern techniques.

With the Tower now clad in scaffolding, and the clock hands and 159-year-old clock mechanism completely disconnected and dismantled for the first time, episode 2 will chart the significant progress that has been made during 2018. Dr Keay meets the people involved in this complex undertaking, both on site in Parliament and at the various workshops across the UK. Tune in for a fascinating insight into the specialist skills involved in restoring this historic building to its former glory.

Principal Architect Adam Watrobski said: “This is the most significant restoration of the Elizabeth Tower in its entire history, with many challenges and complexities emerging since the project began. Hidden behind the scaffolding, the Tower is a hive of activity, and we have made substantial progress in restoring the Tower whilst also updating it for the 21st century. Next year the first newly painted clock dial will be revealed and I hope the public is as excited as I am to see Barry's original designs begin to re-emerge.”

Executive Producer for ITN Productions, Bernie Kay, said: “It's a real privilege to film behind the scenes at such a global iconic landmark as Big Ben. Following on from last year's documentary, this access gives viewers another unique view of London's historic clock and the impact that this restoration project is having on industries across the UK.”

Big Ben's bongs to ring in New Year

Parliament is also pleased to confirm that Big Ben will ring in the New Year. At midnight exactly Big Ben will ring12 times, replicating the usual strike rate of 4.5 seconds. To make this possible, a bespoke electric mechanism has been built to power the 200kg striking hammer.

You can watch the first episode on the Channel 4 website.

Further information

Standing at 96 metres tall, the Elizabeth Tower is a focal point of the Grade I listed Palace of Westminster, which forms a part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not only is it a world famous landmark, it is also one of the most photographed buildings in the UK. Refurbishment is required to:

  • Repair problems identified with the Elizabeth Tower and the Great Clock, which cannot be rectified whilst the clock is in action.
  • Conserve significant elements of the Tower, as designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin.
  • Repair and redecorate the interior, renew the building services and make improvements to health and safety and fire protection systems.
  • Improve energy efficiency to reduce the Tower's environmental impact.
  • More detail on the restoration is included on our website alongside facts about Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower.