A new Channel 4 documentary will go behind-the-scenes as the Elizabeth Tower (fondly referred to as Big Ben) undergoes essential repairs. The programme, Big Ben: Saving the World’s Most Famous Clock, follows clock mechanics, engineers, scaffolders and historians as they prepare the world famous landmark for the most significant programme of works in its 158-year history.
The documentary is the first of a three-part series presented by historian and Director of the Landmark Trust, Dr. Anna Keay. In episode 1, Dr. Keay introduces viewers to the fascinating history of Big Ben, which has been keeping time for the nation since 1859. The programme reveals 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 to its full glory, combining skills from the past with cutting edge modern techniques.
Jenny Dames, Director of Big Ben: Saving the World’s Most Famous Clock, said:
“ITN Productions have been making a documentary about Big Ben for the last 12 months. With exclusive access to life inside the tower, we have been following the team who keep the clock running and filming behind-the-scenes as they prepare for one of the world’s most important conservation projects to begin. When I was first asked to direct this documentary, I was more than aware of what a privilege it is to have intimate access to one of the most famous buildings on the planet. But it wasn’t until I started filming there, that I really appreciated how special it really is. The Great Clock has barely stopped ticking for nearly 160 years, yet it is almost entirely made up of original materials. Now the time has come to preserve the clock and its tower for the next 160 years, so that future generations can love it as much as we all do today.”
Tom Brake MP, Spokesman for the House of Commons Commission, said:
“Parliament is delighted to be working with ITN Productions and Channel 4 to document the refurbishment of the Elizabeth Tower, the international symbol of our democracy. It has now been over 31 years since the last extensive works were carried out to maintain the Tower and it is vital to ensure that it is safeguarded for future generations. While the essential works mean that the Elizabeth Tower is temporarily closed to visitors, we hope the documentary series will inspire people to learn more about this much loved clock.”
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.
Big Ben: Saving the World’s Most Famous Clock will be broadcast on Channel 4 on Sunday 12 November at 9pm, marking the start of UK Parliament Week (13-19 November).