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Big Ben to be silent for up to FOUR YEARS as major restoration work begins

Crowds are being invited to hear the final bongs next week

Britain's most photographed landmark is to be silenced for up to four years due to restoration work, parliamentary authorities announced on Monday (August 14).

Big Ben , the nickname of the bell at the north end of the Palace of Westminster , will chime for the last time at noon next Monday (August 21) ahead of major repairs which are expected to be completed in 2021.

This will be the historic clock's first prolonged silence for 157 years.

Despite the unpopular decision, parliament's authorities insisted that silencing the bells is necessary for the health and safety of workers undertaking the restoration.

A spokesman said: "The chimes are being stopped to provide a safe environment for the people working on the scaffolding.

"Constant proximity to the chimes would pose a serious risk to their hearing, and would prevent efficient working."

(Image: Getty Images Europe)

Current clock mechanics who work on the Elizabethan tower wear ear defenders, but this is only enough for workers exposed to the noise for short periods of time.

The spokesman continued: "People will be working on the scaffolding day-in day-out throughout the works, and, while protective headgear could be provided, it is not desirable for individuals working at height to have their hearing obscured as there is concern the ability to hear eachother and any alarms could be affected."

The face of Big Ben will continue to tell the time but once the striking hammers are locked and the bell is disconnected, this will be in silence.

It is also reassured that Big Ben will still dong for important national events, including New Year's Eve and Remembrance Sunday.

2007 was the last time the bells fell silent for maintenance while a larger scale restoration scheme was undertaken between 1983 to 1985.

(Image: PA)

Steve Jaggs, keeper of the Great Clock, said: "Big Ben falling silent is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project.

"As Keeper of the Great Clock I have the great honour of ensuring this beautiful piece of Victorian engineering is in top condition on a daily basis.

"This essential programme of works will safeguard the clock on a long term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home – the Elizabeth Tower.

He added: "Members of the public are welcome to mark this important moment by gathering in Parliament Square to hear Big Ben’s final bongs until they return in 2021."

Restoration work is needed to repair and redecorate the interior and improvements made to the tower's energy efficiency and health and safety.

As part of the repairs, the huge clock will be dismantled piece by piece with each cog examined and restored.

Each of the four dials will also be cleaned, the glass repaired, the cast iron framework renewed and the hands refurbished.

One working clock face will remain and will be driven by a modern electric motor.

The Great Bell, which weighs 13.7 tonnes and strikes every hour to the note of E is accompanied by four smaller bells which chime every 15 minutes.

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