London, August 21
London's iconic Big Ben fell silent on Monday for four years of essential renovation with final 12 bongs, as chimes from one of the world's most famous clock towers were cheered by a crowd of over a thousand people.
The midday bongs today afternoon were the last regular chimes from the famous bell within the Elizabeth Tower until the 29-million-pound repair programme on the site is complete.
The bell set within the UK's Palace of Westminster fell silent for essential repairs until 2021, but will still be used for special occasions such as New Year's Eve and Remembrance Sunday.
There had been considerable debate among senior political leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May and several MPs, about the iconic bell falling silent for as long as four years.
The House of Commons authorities who made the decision have said that workers would not be able to operate safely next to the ringing of the 13-tonne bell.
However, it has promised to review the length of the bell's silence following the concerns.
A small group of MPs gathered by the members' entrance to the Houses of Parliament today to mark the occasion of the London landmark's final chimes.
"This is a desperately sad moment and you don't know what you've got till it's gone," said Labour MP Stephen Pound.
Some Eurosceptic Conservative MPs have previously called for the bongs to ring at midnight after the UK officially leaves the EU on March 29, 2019.
Members of the public and tourists also packed into Parliament Square and lined Westminster Bridge to hear the final bongs.
There were cheers and applause as the final chime rang out.
The Great Bell, the official name for Big Ben, traditionally rings every hour to the note of E, accompanied by four quarter bells that chime every 15 minutes.
This is not the first time the bells have fallen silent - they were stopped for maintenance in 2007, and between 1983 and 1985.
“This essential programme of works will safeguard the clock on a long-term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home, the Elizabeth Tower," said Steve Jaggs, keeper of the Great Clock.
As part of the elaborate repair programme, the roof of the Elizabeth Tower will be stripped off and restored, the bell frame repaired, leaks into the clock room stemmed and a lift installed.
A brick enclosure in the tower will also be replaced with glass to allow Big Ben to be viewed by people walking up the staircase.
The colour scheme on the Great Clock will also be reportedly changed to give it a more "vibrant" look.
The Ayrton Light, which shines when the Commons and Lords are sitting, will also be switched off for some time during the repairs. A temporary light will replace it.
Installed in 1885, the historic lamp was previously turned off only during both world wars. — PTI
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