Big Ben will ring at noon, then fall silent until 2021

The colossal $47-million Cdn renovations will involve dismantling the iconic clock and locking the bell-chiming hammers.

Liberal Democrat Tom Brake, who answers his colleagues' questions on the Commission's behalf, said one concession could be allowing Big Ben to chime on more special occasions. The clock came into operation on May 31, 1859 but Big Ben itself did not ring out until July 11 of that year. "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".

The 29 million pound restoration of the Big Ben was signed off in 2015 by the Commons Administration Committee. A round of polite applause rippled through the crowd once the last bong had faded away.

Standing at 315 feet high, the tower is the focal point of the Grade I-listed Palace of Westminster, which forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hugh Robertson, the TUC union's health and safety expert, said it would be risky to expect workers to complete their jobs while the bell continued to ring.

During the four years of works the dials, hands and lights will be removed for restoration. One occasion was down to a worker, who was trying to fix damage, dropping a hammer into the inner workings of the clock.

Officially known as the Great Bell, Big Ben rang for a final time at midday local time, accompanied by a small group of United Kingdom lawmakers who gathered outside parliament.

Lee said he did not recognise claims by authorities at the House of Commons that it would take half a day to prime the bell. "It is absurd to silence the bell for four years".

'Nothing could be more symbolic really than Big Ben, which we all remember from the Second World War onwards'.

British officials decided it was be prudent to halt Big Ben's "bong" for now, as experts said it wouldn't be practical to halt the chimes for the work to be done each day.

The bongs will still sound for important events, such as New Year's Eve celebrations. "I'm sure they could figure out a way to make a bell ring and not damage the hearing of the workers".

The Elizabeth Tower, which houses the Great Clock and the "Big Ben" bell, is seen above the Houses of Parliament.

The panel of politicians responsible for the maintenance of Parliament's buildings has said it will review the arrangements following the backlash, but will still ensure worker safety is prioritised.

  • Rogelio Becker