Next week, London's iconic Big Ben will stop ringing

London to lose Big Ben's iconic bongs for years

London to lose Big Ben's iconic bongs for years

MPs and parliamentary workers gathered to listen as the great bell chimed at noon before being halted to allow work to begin.

One of those calling for a rethink to stop Big Ben being silenced for the longest period in its 157-year history, Labour MP Stephen Pound, said he hoped at least 20 "like-minded traditionalists" would gather to witness the halting of the bongs.

They want the timescale for repairs tightened, and House of Commons officials say they will take another look at the schedule once Parliament returns next month from its summer break. Its bongs will still sound for important events such as New Year's Eve celebrations.

The fix work on the landmark looming over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster has sparked protests including from Prime Minister Theresa May.

The midday bongs were the last regular chimes from the famous bell, one of the world's most famous clock towers of the 19th century, until the repairs to its tower are complete.

At midday, 12 bongs from the famous bell rang out in front of around 1,000 local residents, tourists and MPs who came out to mark Big Ben's longest silence in its 157-year history for extensive fix work.

Chris Bryant, who sits on the Palace of Westminster's restoration committee, said: "How anybody could think that this work could take place without the bell being silent, I cannot comprehend".

Big Ben is such a monumental part of Britain, no matter where you go, you can usually see it or hear it in London.

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Last renovated more than 30 years ago, the tower is now in dire need of extensive fix. "I'm sure they could figure out a way to make a bell ring and not damage the hearing of the workers", he said.

For the next four years the instantly recognisable ringing will only be heard during special occasions.

Scaffolding has already been erected at the Elizabeth Tower, one of the most photographed sites in the United Kingdom, ahead of the renovation work.

As well as conservation work on the tower itself, the Great Bell will be unmounted for cleaning.

The Great Bell, the official name for Big Ben, traditionally rings every hour to the note of E, accompanied by four quarter bells that chime every 15 minutes.

During the fix work, scaffolding will obscure parts of the tower, and the clock faces will be covered at times - though at least one face will always be visible. The total cost of repairs?

"It can't be right", said Prime Minister Theresa May, who urged a review of the decision.

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