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£21 million repairs silence Big Ben

Monday, August 21, 2017 - 01:59

The ''Big Ben'' bell in the British parliament's famous clock tower tolled for the last time on Monday before it ceased its regular bongs for four years while renovation work is carried out. Kate King reports.

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It's chimed through the great depression. Seen two world wars, four kings, two queens, and Brexit. It's a face which needs no introduction - but apparently a whole lot of TLC. 21 million pounds worth - over the next four years, starting from midday Monday. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOURIST, AUDREY LEE, SAYING: "I know it has got to be done. But it's very sad because I know it is one of the London landmarks isn't it." Big Ben provides a soundtrack to daily life in England's capital, but it's also a world heritage sight and tourist attraction. During repairs, the hammers which have struck the bell every hour for most of the last 157 years will be locked and disconnected from the clock. Its four dials will also be cleaned and repaired. Photographers fair not though, one working clock face will remain visible at all times. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LONDONER, JESS FULCHER, SAYING: "You won't hear the chimes, you won't hear the dongs anymore. It is really sad. That's why we wanted to come down today, so we can hear it for the last time for four years time." Ben's struck a chord with politicians too, even the prime minister has publicised her disquiet about the silent treatment. But health and safety advisors have defended the decision At 120 decibels per ring, they say it would be too loud for restoration workers. And the clock keepers say it will be time well spent. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BIG BEN CLOCK MECHANIC, IAN WESTWORTH, SAYING: "Right from the hands all the way back to the clock movement itself will be totally dismantled and removed from the tower. So we're taking this opportunity to make sure everything is done for the future. " The bell will still toll for important events such as New Year's Eve celebrations, but will otherwise remain silent until 2021. Providing, of course, that the repairs are done on time and in budget.

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£21 million repairs silence Big Ben

Monday, August 21, 2017 - 01:59