London's Big Ben has a new look for the new year.
Formally known as Elizabeth Tower, the London landmark has been covered in scaffolding for years as it undergoes repairs, and save for special occasions, its famous bell has been silenced since 2017 – an extremely rare occurrence in its 162-year history. But progress is being made.
In late November, one of the clock's faces was revealed, featuring new blown-glass panels and intricately restored details, including Prussian blue hands and numbers instead of the previous black, a historically accurate nod to the building’s original Victorian color scheme.
It’s become a New Year’s Eve tradition for people to gather on the bridges of the Thames as Big Ben rings out, and all four of the clock's dials should be visible again by December 31, when the clock will be struck for the last time using its temporary electric mechanism, according to a UK Parliament announcement.
"By New Year people will start to see a big difference; they'll start to get their tower back," project manager Nicholas Sturge told Reuters. "The roofs will be fully visible along with the four clock faces." The government expects the clock to be gravity-powered again by spring, and the bell to resume its normal schedule then as well.
Since 2017, a team of architects, clockmakers, engineers, and traditionally trained craftspeople have been working on the 19th-century building, restoring details and addressing structural problems, such as deteriorating masonry and corroding metalwork.
Situated at the Houses of Parliament (technically called the Palace of Westminster), Big Ben is thought to be named after Benjamin Hall, Chief Commissioner of Works when the bell began chiming in 1859. An iconic London sight, it was the 8th-most visited paid attraction in the capital in 2020, according to the city’s tourism office.
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