One of the most popular symbols of London is gearing up for a big change: Big Ben, the bell atop the Parliament building’s famous clock tower, will go (almost completely) silent next week—and will stay that way for four years.
The move comes as part of a much-needed refurbishment. According to a story published yesterday on CNN, repairs that will begin Monday, August 21, will stretch until 2021 and will cost about $42 million (in U.S. dollars).
Portions of the Parliament complex have been under renovation for the better part of the last decade. According to Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock (yes, that’s actually his title), this latest round of maintenance work is designed to put Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower in a position to operate for years to come.
“Big Ben falling silent is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project,” Jaggs was quoted as saying in a statement. “This essential program will safeguard the clock on a long-term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home.”
Technically, however, Big Ben won’t be completely silent over the next four years. A story on Time.com noted that the 13.7-ton bell will ring again for special occasions such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday, which this year is November 12.
News of the project so far has served to inform the public about widespread misconceptions regarding the site.
Big Ben is only the name of the bell itself; the tower is Elizabeth Tower (it was St. Stephen’s Tower until it was renamed in 2012), and the clock is the Great Clock of Westminster.
Whatever you want to call it, the Great Bell certainly has had staying power. The bell has rung the note of E every hour for 157 years. It went silent for a short stretch in 2007, also for maintenance.
Before that, the last time the bell was taken out of commission was 1983-1985.