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London's Big Ben To Go Silent For Repairs

Big Ben resides in the Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament, seen in the distance behind a construction sign on Westminster Bridge.
Matt Dunham
/
AP
Big Ben resides in the Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament, seen in the distance behind a construction sign on Westminster Bridge.

For only the third time in 157 years, the bell at London's landmark clock will not toll the hours.

Big Ben resides in Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament. Starting next year, the bell will go silent for a few months as part of a three-year repair plan.

"The clock mechanism will need to be stopped for several months in order to carry out essential maintenance," says the Parliament's official website in an extensive Q&A section about the renovation. "During this period there will be no chiming or striking. Striking and tolling will be maintained for important events."

The site also mentions Big Ben's past moments of silence: 2007 for six weeks and 1976 for nine months when the clock underwent a major overhaul.

CNN reported the bell has become such a reliable part of London life that the repairs might mean "a silence so notable that some Londoners may even find it deafening."

The clock mechanism is said to be in need of repairs, along with the hands and the pendulum. Surveys have also found leaks and erosion, along with cracks in the masonry, and severe rust problems in the metal pieces of the clock. Experts have become concerned that without the necessary updates and fixes, the clock might stop telling accurate time or stop working altogether.

The last major renovation took place from 1983 to 1985. The current project includes installation of an elevator and a bathroom inside the tower.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Hodges
Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.