Stop the Clock (but Not the Sightseeing): Iconic Big Ben to Fall Silent for Four Years

Tuesday 15 August 2017

New York, New York (August 15, 2017) – For 157 years, the iconic time-keeper of the capital city has rung out every hour to the note of E, accompanied by distinct chiming bells every 15 minutes. For the next four years, Big Ben’s bongs will fall silent as a major conservation project begins at Elizabeth Tower on August 21, 2017.

In order to preserve the iconic Victorian engineering of the Great Clock and Great Bell, Big Ben’s famous striking will be paused until 2021. Weighing an impressive 13.7 tons, the custom-built Victoria clockwork mechanism will continue telling time silently after the striking hammers are disconnected.

The public will be able to see one working clock face visible at all times throughout the process, though other faces will be covered at certain points.

Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock, says:

“Big Ben falling silent is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project. As Keeper of the Great Clock I have the great honor of ensuring this beautiful piece of Victorian engineering is in top condition on a daily basis. This essential program of works will safeguard the clock on a long term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home – the Elizabeth Tower.”

Quieted for only the third time in history, Parliament’s specialist clock makers will ensure that Big Ben will still bong for important national events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday. The bongs last fell silent for maintenance in 2007 and a prior refurbishment project from 1983-5.

Elizabeth Tower is currently the most photographed building in the UK, located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. Standing at 96 meters tall, it is a focal point of the Grade I listed Palace of Westminster, which forms a part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

During this renovation period, international travelers can still enjoy a tour of the Houses of Parliament and visit the surrounding area’s most popular attractions and participate in the below activities.

Sit in the Public Galleries at the Houses of Parliament

The clock tower that houses Big Ben is attached to the Houses of Parliament – and visitors are welcome! Whenever either the House of Commons or House of Lords are in session, it’s free for the public to go inside and sit in the public galleries.

Attend a service at Westminster Abbey

On Sundays, Westminster Abbey is open for services, and members of the public can worship free of charge. See the spot where British monarchs have been crowned for centuries, and more recently, where Will and Kate exchanged their heartfelt vows. To explore more of the church and visit the monuments, group tours are available on Mondays through Saturdays.

Stroll along the Westminster Bridge

For incredible views in every direction, walk along the Westminster Bridge and admire Parliament, Whitehall, the Strand, South Bank, and the London Eye, while taking in all the sounds and smells that make London so unique.

Check out the Churchill War Rooms

History buffs will surely get a thrill out of visiting the underground bunker where Winston Churchill worked – and occasionally lived – during World War II. Here, guests will get a glimpse into what life would have been like during the tense days of combat, including a visit to the Map Room, which has remained exactly as it was left on the day the lights were switched off in 1945.

See the Household Cavalry Museum 

Watch troopers working with their horses in the original 18th century stables (via a glazed partition) and hear accounts of their demanding training at this living museum. For an extra special treat, time your visit to coincide with the Changing of the Queen's Life Guard, which takes place daily on Horse Guards Parade at 11 AM.

For more information contact:

VisitBritain Media Team

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Houses of Parliament
Westminster Bridge
Household Cavalry Museum
Westminster Abbey
Churchill War Rooms Museum