High noon in London – but only on the west dial! Hands on one of Big Ben’s four faces are pictured stuck at midday as world’s most iconic clock continues to undergo £80million refurbishment
Big Ben’s iconic clock faces have caused some confusion as baffled passersby noticed that one of the four dials was stuck at 12 o’clock.
Photographs of the four newly-restored clock faces on the Palace of Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower taken on Friday morning showed hands on the west dial jammed at 12 o’clock.
The west dial, which faces Parliament Square and St James’ Park, has been halted to prevent any damage to the hands and mechanism while dusty works are ongoing as part of the £80million restoration scheme.
One picture taken from the north side of London landmark at 8.28am saw one of the iconic clocks displaying the correct time, while the west dial was stuck at 12 o’clock.
North side pictured at 8.28am: Photographs of the clock faces on the Palace of Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower taken on Friday morning showed the west dial (left) was jammed at 12 o’clock
But passersby on the south side of the tower managed to avoid the confusion as both clocks were ticking on with the correct time, a picture taken at 8.50am showed.
The West dial has been stationary at the 12 o’clock position since the scaffolding was removed last month as part of the five-year restoration project.
The north dial, which faces Whitehall and Central London, and the south dial, which faces the Victoria Tower and Millbank, have been showing the correct time for weeks, while the east dial was lit up on New Year’s Eve to ring in 2022.
Works are still ongoing in the ventilation shaft of the Tower, which sits closest to the west dial, so the hands of the clock have been kept stationary to prevent damage.
All four dials will display the correct time when the clock has been fully installed, which is expected to be completed early this year.
The Houses of Parliament’s famous clock tower struck 12 times to welcome in the New Year, with all clock faces on display for the first time since 2017.
South side pictured at 8.50am: But passersby on the south side of the tower managed to avoid the confusion as both clocks were ticking on with the correct time
Works are still ongoing in the ventilation shaft of the Tower, which sits closest to the west dial (pictured), so the hands of the clock have been kept stationary to prevent damage
But only the East Dial, which faces the River Thames, on the 160-year-old tower was illuminated to bring the new year in.
The chimes on December 31 was the final occasion that Big Ben will be struck using a temporary mechanism, which was installed after the great clock was removed to protect it from dust and debris created by works on the Elizabeth Tower.
The temporary device has been used over the past four years while the restoration works have been ongoing and the original Victorian mechanism will be brought back into use in Spring 2022.
Speaking of the project, Ian Westworth, one of Parliament’s team of clock mechanics, said: ‘It’s going to be quite emotional when it’s all over – there will be sadness that the project has finished, but happiness that we have got it back and everything’s up and running again.’
From spring, Big Ben and the four quarter bells will once again sound out the famous Westminster Quarters melody and resonant bongs throughout the day – the first time they have done so since the restoration began in 2017.
Over the past four years, the 96-metre tower and the clockwork and bell mechanism within it have undergone the biggest repair and conservation project in its history.
The West dial has been stationary at 12 o’clock since the scaffolding (pictured) was removed last month, while the North and South dials have been showing the correct time for weeks
The Houses of Parliament’s famous clock tower struck 12 times to welcome in the New Year, with all clock faces on display for the first time since 2017
The tower exterior has been covered in scaffolding for most of the works and the bell was rarely rung in the past four years.
As the scaffolding has been removed in recent months, a view of the clock face’s restored original paint colour has emerged.
When black paint was stripped away from the dials during repair work earlier this year, it was discovered that it was originally painted in a dark blue hue known as Prussian blue.
Teams across the UK – including the Cumbria Clock Company – were involved in reviving the much-adored timepiece and bringing back its signature ‘bong’, which first rang out around London in 1923.
The task has been particularly painstaking given that neither the original designer, Edmund Beckett Denison, nor installer, Edward John Dent, kept detailed records of how it was constructed.
The clock was designed and installed in 1859, with the aim of creating the most accurate public timepiece in the world.
The history of Big Ben – the incredibly accurate clock which regulates its timekeeping using a stack of coins
After the Palace of Westminster was destroyed by a fire in 1834 those in charge of planning the new building decided to create a tower and clock.
The bell necessary for the giant clock had to be large, and John Warner and Sons at Stockton-on-Tees’ first attempt cracked irreparably.
in 1858 the metal was melted down and the bell recast in Whitechapel.
It first rang across Westminster on May 31, 1859 but just months later cracked again.
A lighter hammer had to be fitted and the bell was turned around so an undamaged section could be rung.
The origin of the name Big Ben is not known, although two different theories exist.
The first is that is was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the first commissioner of works, a large man who was known affectionately in the house as ‘Big Ben’.
The second theory is that it was named after a heavyweight boxing champion at that time, Benjamin Caunt.
Also known as ‘Big Ben’, this nickname was commonly bestowed in society to anything that was the heaviest in its class.
Big Ben’s timekeeping is strictly regulated by a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum.
Before 2009, timekeepers kept 10 old pennies beside the mechanism, using the coins to keep the clock accurate. It now also used special £5 coins created especially for the 2012 Olympics.
Adding or taking away coins affects the pendulum’s centre of mass and the rate at which it swings, Mike McCann, the clock’s keeper told Reuters news service at the time.
The clock has rarely stopped – even after a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during the Second World War, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to strike the hours.
The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC on December 31 1923, a tradition that continues to this day.
The latin words under the clock face read Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostram Victoriam Primam, which means ‘O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First’.