LONDON — So it has come to pass that the Keeper of the Great Clock announced Monday that London’s Big Ben hour bell will be silenced for four #long years as desperately needed repairs are carried out on the 158-year-old timepiece, a masterwork of Victorian ingenuity and an enduring British icon.
Londoners were not happy to hear the news, and there was lament on Twitter, with many recalling how the hourly bongs of Big Ben serve as a kind of base note for their lives.
“A silent Big Ben will be super eerie,” tweeted Rob, a history student at King’s College. “I could hear the chimes from my room in Euston, they’re the sound of London!”
“It will be very sad, but it needs to be done,” said Kirsten Hurrell, 71, a news agent who runs a busy stall that faces the clock #tower.
Hurrell said the gong of Big Ben might be one of those things in life you don’t miss until it is gone. “Quite honestly, we live with it and half the time we don’t hear it,” she said. “But we will miss it when we will suddenly find it’s not there any more.”
Tourism officials were glum but hoping for the best.
A selfie with the Great Clock atop Elizabeth Tower along the Thames River is almost mandatory. The Palace of Westminster, home to the houses of Parliament, is one of the top five visited sites in London, and Big Ben is the star of the show.
The tower will soon be fully swaddled in metal scaffolding and three of the four clock dials covered. The last gongs of Big Ben, before its long rest, will ring out at noon Monday, Aug. 21. Large crowds are expected to witness the event. The repairs should be complete sometime in 2021, authorities promised.