Resortation of the (recently named) Elizabeth Tower, which houses the iconic ‘Big Ben’ bell, is due to start in early 2017, with an estimated cost of £29m.
The bell will be silenced for several months to repair the clock faces and mechanism as well as cracks in the tower’s masonry and corrosion to the roof.The clock faces will also be given a new colour scheme, with the Commons authorities eager to reflect the original design by Augustus Pugin.
The existing black and gold colouring around the clock faces was applied in the 1980s and experts from parliament’s team of conservation architects are analysing the original paint used to decorate the areas surrounding each dial.
The 96-metre (315ft) Elizabeth Tower, was completed in 1856 but now needs work to repair cracks in the masonry, corrosion to the cast-iron roof and belfry and the frame which holds the bells.
Parts of the Great Clock, which was installed in 1859, require urgent investigation and repair and many of the 312 pieces of pot opal glass used to make up each of the clock faces need to be replaced. The work, which will take three years, is expected to start in early 2017.
A House of Commons spokeswoman said: “The clock mechanism will need to be stopped for several months in order to carry out essential maintenance. During this period there will be no chimes. We are also investigating whether or not the chiming will have an effect on operatives working at high level, which will need to be taken into consideration. Striking and tolling will be maintained for important events.”
During the works, a lift will also be installed as an alternative to the 334 steps to the top of the tower to improve access and safety. The lights illuminating the clock dials and belfry will be replaced by low-energy LEDs.
Steve Jaggs, the keeper of the clock, said: “Every day our team of highly skilled clock mechanics cares for this Victorian masterpiece but, in order to keep the clock ticking, we must now take the time to thoroughly inspect and restore it. These essential works balance value for money with parliament’s custodial responsibility to the building as well as to those visiting and working in the Elizabeth Tower. This project will enable us to give one of Britain’s most famous landmarks the TLC it so desperately needs and deserves.”