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Big Time Repairs Needed for Big Ben

Monday, October 26, 2015

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Time is precious for Big Ben; the iconic 156-year-old London monument needs £29 million ($45 million) in “urgent repairs,” reports relate.

The clock in the Elizabeth Tower is in such a state of disrepair that its 9-foot-long, 660-pound gunmetal hands are at risk of falling off, according to reports, relying on a leaked House of Commons study.

Parliamentary officials, however, deny that the clock’s hands pose a danger to the public, but have confirmed problems with the clock, according to The Standard.

Big Ben
©iStock.com / stu99

“The clock currently has chronic problems with the bearings behind the hands and pendulum,” Daily Mail reported, citing the leaked House of Commons report. “[The problems could cause] the clock to stop—or worse.”

“A feasibility study and survey work has been carried out on the Elizabeth Tower in order to understand in detail the condition of the building fabric, the clock mechanism and the building services,” a Parliamentary spokeswoman said, according to the report.

The spokeswoman said the clock hands, mechanism and pendulum have “problems” and the tower itself is eroded, cracked and has water seeping in, The Standard reported. She added that committees on both Houses were currently considering the study and would provide advice on how best to proceed.

‘Chronic Problems’

The response from the spokeswoman was sparked after a report in the Daily Mail warned of major concerns with the clock.

“The clock currently has chronic problems with the bearings behind the hands and pendulum,” Daily Mail reported, citing the leaked House of Commons report.

“[The problems could cause] the clock to stop—or worse.”

The report also identified severe metal corrosion, cracks in the roof and other structural defects to the tower.

“There are major concerns that if this is not carried out within the next two to three years, the clock mechanism is at risk of failure with the huge risk of international reputational damage for Parliament,” the report said.

©iStock.com / LiubovTerletska

Big Ben began keeping time May 31, 1859.

“In the event of a clock-hand failure, it could take up to a year to repair due to the scaffolding needed.”

The proposed £29 million project would be the longest pause in the clock’s history, at four months, according to the Daily Mail. The longest previous shutdown was in 1976 when the clock stopped intermittently for 26 days over a nine-month period.

Officials say that it would cost only £4.9 million to “prevent the clock from failing,” the report states.

The news bureau also says that lawmakers would need to prioritize the Big Ben repairs over a £7 billion ($10.8 billion) Palace of Westminster restoration.

However, the Parliamentary spokeswoman noted that decisions regarding the project’s scope, timeline or costs have yet to be agreed upon.

A Replacement?

The Nottingham City Council has proposed that its 10-and-a-half ton bell known as “Little John” be the stand-in for the world-renowned chimes of Big Ben, The Telegraph reports.

Little John was cast by Loughborough bellfounders John Taylor and Co. in 1927, the report noted.

About Big Ben

“Big Ben” originally referred to just the bell of The Great Clock, designed by clockmaker Edward John Dent, but has since become synonymous with the clock, tower (formerly the St. Stephen’s Tower) and the bell.

In 2012, the 316-foot-tall tower was renamed to honor Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary on the throne.

Big Ben chimes on the hour and has quarter bells that chime every 15 minutes. The bell can reportedly be heard as far as nine miles away.


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Government; Maintenance programs; Monuments; Rehabilitation/Repair

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