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Big Ben to Stop Ringing until 2021 | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Elizabeth Tower, which houses the Great Clock and the Big Ben bell, is seen above the Houses of Parliament, in central London, Britain. (Reuters)

London – Big Ben’s famous chimes fell silent on Monday and will remain so until 2021 to allow essential repair works to take place. The chimes sounded for the final time at midday on Monday before being disconnected to allow the clock and surrounding tower to be restored.

The Great Bell has sounded on the hour for 157 years. It last fell silent in 2007 and before that, for major refurbishments between 1983 and 1985.

Parliamentary authorities said stopping Big Ben, the commonly used name for the Palace of Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower, would protect workers carrying out the repairs. It will still sound for important events including New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.

The clock’s keeper, Steve Jaggs, said Big Ben falling silent was a “significant milestone” in the project to restore the tower.

“This essential program of works will safeguard the clock on a long term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home – the Elizabeth Tower,” he added.

According to BBC, the landmark Elizabeth Tower is said to be the most photographed building in the UK.

The project’s principal architect Adam Watrobski told the BBC the works would install new amenities in the tower, including a lift, toilet and kitchen.

Essential maintenance will also be carried out and the building will be made more energy efficient. As well as conservation work to the tower, the Great Clock will be dismantled piece-by-piece and its four dials will be cleaned and repaired.

The Ayrton Light, which shines when Parliament is sitting, will also be renovated.

Meanwhile BBC Radio 4, which broadcasts the chimes of Big Ben live, has announced it will broadcast a recording when the bells fall silent.

Head of station management Denis Nowlan told the Today program that various alternatives were considered, including the bells of Nottingham Council House.

“We came very close to using the sound of Nottingham’s bells,” he said.

However, a spokesperson confirmed: “After considering various options, we’ve decided that pre-recording Big Ben’s chimes offers the most reliable and resilient option during repairs.”