Big Ben May Soon Be Mute

Landmark bell could be silenced for years for urgent repairs
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 18, 2015 9:40 AM CDT
Big Ben May Soon Be Mute
In this file photo dated Aug. 18, 2014, workers clean Big Ben's clock tower.   (AP Photo/Sang Tan, FILE)

Big Ben's bongs may fall silent for months or even years as urgent repairs are carried out. Two of Britain's largest newspapers reported Sunday that Parliament's massive clock and the tower that supports it need as much as $61.7 million in repairs—work that will silence the famous bell. The Sunday Times, citing a Westminster source, says the clock is so dilapidated it may grind to a halt. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail on Sunday suggested the clock's hands could fall off without urgent action. It's been 31 years since its last major overhaul, the BBC notes, with a spokesman from Parliament noting, "No decisions on works, timescales, or costs have been agreed."

The Times says repairs to the Elizabeth Tower must begin as soon as possible and can't wait for the $10.8 billion restoration of the entire Palace of Westminster that's scheduled to begin at the end of the decade. Big Ben has already shown signs of its wear and tear: In August, the bell messed up a live BBC broadcast of the structure's chiming when the bongs lagged six seconds behind, with a clocksmith at the time noting it "does have a little fit every now and then," per the BBC. (See where Big Ben falls on the list of the world's most photographed landmarks.)

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