Big Ben clock dials in for 2022 photo The Standard
Tourism

Big Ben clock dials in for 2022

Dec 22, 2021, 9:04 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

After four years of repair, the Great Clock, more fondly called Big Ben (which strictly speaking refers only to the 15.1-ton bell) will dial its first hour on midnight of 2022. This iconic symbol of London tells time accurately up to the second.

INSTALLED in 1859, the Big Ben clock-- Big Ben -- the nickname for the 13.7-ton Great Bell -- is often used as a catch-all for the Elizabeth Tower and the Great Clock.

It had been out of commission for repairs for four years at the Cumbria Clock Company in northwest England.

All four of Big Ben’s dials will be on display for the first time in four years as London rings in 2022, the UK parliamentary authorities said on Tuesday, AFP reported.

The Great Clock and the Elizabeth Tower have been shrouded in scaffolding since 2017 for extensive renovation work which has also largely silenced the trademark bongs and chimes of the famous bell inside it.

But the restoration is nearly complete, and Big Ben will strike 12 for the last time using a temporary mechanism before the original is back in place early on New Year.

The 11.5-ton Victorian-era mechanism was removed from the tower overlooking the River Thames at one end of the UK parliament to protect it from the dust and debris created by works on the 96-meter-high tower.

It was transported to a specialist company in northwest England with all its over 1,000 working pieces were cleaned and repaired.

‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’

Keith Scobie-Youngs, director and co-founder of the Cumbria Clock Company, said it was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on the best-known clock in the world" and "the heart of the UK."

"We were able to assemble the time side, the heart-beat, and put that on test in our workshop, so for two years we had that heartbeat ticking away in our test room, which was incredibly satisfying," he said.
"We're working on the installation of the mechanism in the Tower at the moment, so it's a very exciting time."

The Great Clock was designed by Edmund Beckett Denison and installed by Edward John Dent in 1859, with the aim of creating the most accurate public clock in the world.

Ian Westworth, one of parliament's team of clock mechanics, said it had been a "duty and privilege" for his team to work on it.

"I think Edward John Dent would be pleased as punch that the clock that he made will still be doing the job that he designed it to do, over 160 years later," he added.

The temporary mechanism has been used for several landmark events during the renovation works, including Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday, and as Britain left the European Union on January 1 last year.

Big Ben trivia

Big Ben is a tower clock known for its accuracy and for its massive hour bell.

Strictly speaking, the name refers only to the bell, which weighs 15.1 tons (13.7 metric tons), but it is commonly associated with the whole clock tower at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament, in the London borough of Westminster.

Theories on how it acquired its name range from:The first is that is was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the first commissioner of works, a large man who was known affectionately in the house as "Big Ben." The second theory is that it was named after a heavyweight boxing champion at that time, Benjamin Caunt.

The BBC reports the iconic clock tower has been running up to six seconds late, according to clocksmith Ian Westworth. Big Ben is typically accurate to within two seconds of the actual time, with Westworth describing the clock's current behavior as “temperamental”.

The clock's accuracy is now within the second.

At 118 decibels, Big Ben is so loud (over the human pain threshold and louder than a jet taking off) that it might at the least startle people working at heights and could possibly damage their hearing permanently.

In 2012, the Clock Tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.

In 2017, the largest and most extensive conservation of the Elizabeth Tower begins to preserve the clock tower for future generations.

Big Ben's chimes have been measured at 118 decibels.

Official guidance by the Health and Safety Executive states any regular exposure of more than a minute to sounds exceeding 110 decibels would cause permanent hearing loss. Big Ben easily falls into this category.

The Big Ben chimes every fifteen minutes and can be heard from as far away as five miles.

Big Ben began striking the hour on July 11, 1859. The Great Bell forms part of the Great Clock in the Elizabeth Tower commonly known as Big Ben.

Different types of stone are used for the clock tower.

The outside uses stone brought from Yorkshire, while the inside uses Normandy Caen stone. Iron plates cover the tall spire at the top.

There are a few rooms inside that were originally used in the 1800s as a holding area for members of Parliament who breached certain codes. The last time that it was ever used was in 1880.

The Great Clock’s timing is precise to within a second. Some of the weights it still uses today include early pennies (when twelve pennies equaled a shilling). When the bell rings, the first strike marks the beginning of the new hour since it can take a little while if there are several chimes as at twelve o’clock.

There is even a microphone so that the BBC can broadcast the clock’s chimes on radio, television, or the Internet. Just over the belfry (the area where the bell hangs) is a light known as the Ayrton Light. If either of the Houses are still sitting after the sun has gone down, the Ayrton Light is lit. It was placed there in 1885, well before electric lights became widely used.

Although people call the entire structure Big Ben, the name is actually refers to the Great Bell. The very first time that the BBC broadcast the bell’s chimes was on New Year’s Eve of 1923.

In the early days, the dials of the clock were powered by gas. By comparison, they use electricity today with energy efficient bulbs.

The Clock Tower stands over 300 feet tall. Inside are 334 stairs up to the belfry, followed by an extra 59 leading up to the Ayrton Light. The clock dials use cast iron frames and sections of glazed glass.

Each hour hand weighs roughly 300 kilograms! By comparison, the smaller minute hands are around a hundred kilograms each. The clock itself is almost five tons and its pendulum is over 300 kilograms.

The bell is over seven feet high and incredibly, it weighs close to 14 tons. The hammer used to strike the clock is 200 kilograms.

Tags: #BigBen, #London, #2022, #historiclandmark


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