London's Big Ben falls silent - not a bong expected until 2021



LONDON, Robin Powell and Maggie Penman (dpa) - A sizeable crowd stood to listen in London's Parliament Square on Monday to hear Big Ben's last regular chimes for four years, as renovation begins on the clock tower which houses the famous bell.
The bell will still ring for special occasions, like New Years' Eve and Remembrance Sunday, which falls on the second Sunday in November. However, its regular chimes are not planned to resume until 2021.



According to the Press Association, several euroceptic Tory legislators have also called for Big Ben to bong when Britain leaves the European Union on "Brexit Day," expected for March 29, 2019.
But Liberal Democrat Tom Brake, speaking on behalf of a House of Commons commission reviewing the plans for Big Ben's renovation, said it was too soon to say if the bells would ring Britain out of the EU. He added that if they do, "people could read into the ringing of those bells either a celebration, or perhaps the alternative."
Media outlets in Britain and beyond broadcast the final set of 12 bongs live at noon (1100 GMT).
"The sounds of London won't be the same without its chiming heartbeat," tweeted the prime minister's business ambassador, Stephen Kelly.
Big Ben has rung every quarter hour, almost without interruption, for 157 years. The 13.7-ton bell was briefly silent during renovation work in 2007, and before that between 1983 and 1985.
To protect construction workers' hearing during the works, it was proposed that the 120-decibel bell should be silenced during the entire renovation. The noise level is the equivalent of a police siren.
A group of British members of parliament said they would gather with their heads bowed towards this "noble, glorious edifice" at midday to mark the occasion.
"A group of like-minded traditionalists" would take part in the gathering, Labour party lawmaker Stephen Pound told the Press Association.
Some greeted Pound's plans with derision, including fellow Labour parliamentarian Wes Streeting, who tweeted the hashtag #getagrip.
Comedy writer Aaron Gillies added his two cents on Twitter, writing, "BIG BEN BONGS NO MORE. TIME NO LONGER EXISTS IN THE UK. CHAOS. NO ONE KNOWS WHEN TO MAKE TEA. WHEN IS EASTENDERS ON. HELP US."
Keeper of the Great Clock Steve Jaggs has said that members of the public were welcome "to mark this important moment by gathering in Parliament Square to hear Big Ben’s final bongs until they return."
The decision to silence one of the world's most famous clocks for so long has drawn criticism from the British establishment, notably Prime Minister Theresa May, who said last week "it can't be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years."
Parliament has said it will examine the renovation plans.
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Monday, August 21st 2017
Robin Powell and Maggie Penman
           


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