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Big Ben celebrates 160th birthday amid clock tower restoration

The Great Bell only strikes for Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve while work continues.

The new north dial of Big Ben (UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA)
The new north dial of Big Ben (UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA)

One of the world’s most famous bells – Big Ben – is marking its 160th birthday as a £61 million revamp project of its clock tower continues.

The 13.5 ton Great Bell was cast in the Whitechapel Foundry and first rang out in the capital on July 11 1859.

It has remained in place in the tower – formerly known as the Clock Tower and now the Elizabeth Tower to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – as restoration of the clock continues.

Big Ben has remained largely silent throughout the work, which is due to finish in 2021.

However, the Great Bell strikes for Remembrance Sunday and rings in the New Year.

Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock, said: “It is a testament to the craftsmanship that went into its creation, and the expert team maintaining it, that 160 years since Big Ben rang out on 11 July 1859, both the Great Bell and the Great Clock still remain in fantastic condition.

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The north clock dial of the tower (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)

“The Great Clock and its bell have become much loved representatives of our democracy and the conservation works currently taking place will ensure that it continues to be so for generations to come.”

The birthday coincides with the half-way point of the restoration project, with one face of the clock already completed.

Charlotte Claughton, Senior Project Leader, said scaffolding around the Tower will begin to come down late next year.

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Clock mechanic Ian Westworth works on the Great Clock (Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)

She said: “This is a complex programme, with hundreds of experts around the country working on different elements of the project.

“Their hard work and dedication has meant we have reached this stage with many major components restored and ready to go back in situ.”

PA

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