Dhaka, Bangladesh
Big Ben falls silent

Big Ben falls silent

At mid day on August 21 hundreds of spectators gathered outside the Palace of Westminster as Big Ben sounded its regular chimes. A handful of MPs gathered by the members' entrance to the Houses of Parliament to mark the occasion. Everyone cheered and clapped their hands. This would be the last time the bell chimed before falling silent for four years. The people of England are not taking the four-year break too kindly. They have criticised the lengthy silence, saying Big Ben is an important symbol of British democracy and they want the time taken for the repairs to be tightened. They want the bell to toll at Christmas, New Year and midnight of March 29, 2019, when Brexit is complete. Looking back Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. But, it refers to both the clock and the clock tower as well, though the tower is known as the Elizabeth Tower. It was originally called the Clock Tower, but in 2012 was renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. After the old Palace of Westminster was largely destroyed by fire on October 16, 1834 the Clock Tower was raised as part of Charles Barrys' design for a new palace. The new parliament was built in a neo-gothic style. Though Barry was the chief architect, he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the clock tower. Because of changes in ground conditions since its construction, the tower leans slightly to the north-west. The clocks and dials were designed by Pugin. They are set in an iron frame, supporting 312 pieces of opal glass, almost like a stained-glass window, and some of the glass pieces can be removed for inspection of the hands. The surround of the dials is gilded, and at the base of each clock is an inscription in Latin, that reads: DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM which means O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First. The clock's movement is famous for its reliability. When completed in 1859,clockmaker Ian Westworth says, "the prince of timekeepers: the biggest, most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world." It is the world's largest four-faced chiming clock. The tune that Big Ben plays contains only four notes - G sharp, F sharp, E and B. Different parts of the tune are played at quarter past, half past and quarter to the hour in Westminster. The tune is called Westminster Quarters, but its original name was the Cambridge Quarters, because it actually comes from Cambridge and was first played in Great St Mary's Church in the centre of Cambridge. When the clock stopped ticking 1916: For two years, during World War I, the bells were silenced and the clock faces were not illuminated at night to stay hidden from sight of German Zeppelins. September 1, 1939: Though the bells rang, the clock faces were not illuminated at night because of World War II, to avoid being sighted by German bombers during the Blitz. May 10, 1941: A German bombing raid damaged two of the clock's dials. June 3-4, 1941: The clock stopped for 12 hours from 10:13 P.M. after a workman repairing the air raid damage, dropped a hammer into the works. January 13, 1955: Snow drifts caused the clock to stop at 3:24 A.M. Small electric heaters were placed just inside the two dials which faced the fury of the winter blast. January 30, 1965: The bells were silenced during the funeral of former prime minister, Winston Churchill. August 5, 1976: First and only major breakdown after more than 100 years of use. Great Clock was shut down for 26 days over nine months - it was reactivated on May 9, 1977. April 30, 1997: The clock stopped 24 hours before the general election. May 27, 2005: The clock stopped at 10:07 P.M. possibly due to hot weather. It resumed and stopped again at 10:20 P.M. for 90 minutes. October 29, 2005: Stopped for 33 hours for maintenance work. June 5, 2006: The clock tower's "Quarter Bells" were taken out of commission for four weeks. August 11, 2007: Stopped for six weeks for maintenance. April 17, 2013: The bells were silenced as a mark of "profound dignity and deep respect" during the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. August 21, 2017: Start of four-year silencing of the chimes during maintenance and repair work to the clock mechanism, and repairs and improvements to the clock tower building. During this time, dials, hands, and lights will be removed for restoration, with at least one dial-with hands driven by an electric motor-left intact, functioning, and visible at any given time.

Share |