London’s Big Ben is now able to withstand the forces of Mother Nature after a restoration project
A five-year restoration project intended to ensure Big Ben is able to withstand the forces of Mother Nature is nearing completion in London as teams begin testing to ensure the giant clock stays in step with the weather.
A combination of wear and tear, weather and pollution prompted the UK government to embark on the most significant restoration project in the tower’s 162-year history.
What is officially known as the Great Clock of Westminster was surrounded by scaffolding in 2017 as crews worked on not only rehabilitating the exterior, but also the massive mechanisms that power the four-faced clock.
A British Parliament spokesman said more than 1,000 components had been removed and refined by watchmaking experts.
The extensive conservation project even included removing the famous dials which are over 14 feet tall and repairing and reglazing them to withstand London’s extreme weather conditions.
One of the aims of the project is to keep almost 25 inches of annual London rain out of the building, which unfortunately, according to a spokesperson, has found ways to seep into the tower.
Experts say replacing more than 400 cast iron tiles, along with other masonry work in the 315ft structure, should help prevent future water intrusions.
In addition to Mother Nature, pollution is also said to have undermined the tower’s luster over the decades.
A spokesman for Parliament has created air pollution for eating away at the tower’s original limestone, requiring hundreds of pieces of replacement stone.
Pollution is also blamed for even eroding the intricate carvings of one of the tower’s original architects.
During the multi-year project, officials estimate that more than 700 pieces of stone were replaced in the London monument.
Crews recently connected the final tower dial to the giant clock mechanism, and all four sides are now believed to be working properly.
“The conservation project is on schedule. In the coming months, the bells – including Big Ben itself – will be connected to the clockwork and ringing continuously,” said Lorcan O’Donoghue, spokesperson for the UK Parliament.
The $100million+ restoration project won’t be complete by the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June, but officials say the project is set to wrap up over the summer .
Tours and other public exhibits are expected to reopen towards the end of the year.