Big Ben to be Silenced Until 2021

Keegan Robbins, Contributor

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The Great Bell of London’s iconic Elizabeth tower, or more commonly, “Big Ben,” is planned to be silenced on Monday, August 21, due to impending repairs. Its final ring will be at 12:00 BST (British Summer Time), until construction is completed, which is projected to take as long as 4 years, and cost £29 million. The hammer that strikes the bell will be locked into place, so that workers can perform maintenance and refurbishments on the tower, and its complicated inner-workings. The bell will be stopped to protect workers, as,  “prolonged exposure to the chimes would pose a serious risk to the hearing of those working on the project”, said a UK Parliament spokesman. The scheduled repairs include: cleaning and repairing the 4 glass dials, repairing the rusted iron framework, refurbishing the minute and hour hands, and “the clock itself must be ‘dismantled piece by piece with each cog examined and restored,” explained The Keeper of the Great Clock. Also, an elevator and a bathroom with be installed for the timekeeper’s convenience.

Having rung on the hour, virtually every day for the past 157 years, the decision to stop the Great Bell has come with much controversy. Cabinet minister David Davis described the move as “mad”. Many have pointed out that the bell was not even stopped by the Nazis raids on the city during World War II, and that “Silencing Big Ben is like stopping the heartbeat of our democracy,” wrote Francis Wilson, a columnist, reporting on the backlash against the decision. “Protecting workers’ hearing is far from ‘health and safety gone mad.” said TUC health and safety officer Hugh Robertson. He continues, saying that, “at nearly 120 decibels, it’s like putting your ear next to a police siren.” The English Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday, “Of course we want to ensure people’s safety at work, but it can’t be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years.” She continues, saying “And I hope that the Speaker, as the chairman of the House of Commons commission, will look into this urgently so that we can ensure that we can continue to hear Big Ben through those four years.”

Reacting to the growing criticism, as well as the Prime Minister’s continued urges to keep the bell operational, Parliament has announced they will be reviewing their decision. A House of Commons spokesman said that, “When Parliament returns, in light of concerns expressed by a number of MPs (Members of Parliament), the House of Commons Commission will consider the length of time that the bells will fall silent.” The work on the tower was approved in 2015, but many MPs have voiced that they did not know that the bell would be silenced until this Monday, August 14. Due to this proposed review, it is uncertain that Big Ben will be silenced. The bell will still sound for important events, such as New Years and Remembrance Sunday; one clock face will remain throughout the repairs.  It has been proposed that Big Ben could ring when workers are not working, or that a recording of the bell could be played around the city. It has also been proposed that an entirely different bell could sound the hours, and take the position of London’s most famous bell.

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