Big Ben's Chimes Rang for the First Time in 4 Years to Celebrate the New Year
After four years of near-silence, one of London's most famous landmarks rang out just in time to mark the new year.
Big Ben, the iconic clock tower near the River Thames, rang in the new year with all of its dials on display. It was the first major event where the clock face has been on display since the tower began lengthy repairs in 2017, according to the UK Parliament.
Four years ago, the tower began the most costly repairs in its 160-year history, with a price tag of about $107 million (£79.7 million), according to CNN. During repairs, the crew found extensive damage to the clock from the Nazi bombing campaign in World War II, adding more time and money to the project.
"To have had our hands on every single nut and bolt is a huge privilege," Ian Westworth, a Parliament clock mechanic who is working on Big Ben, said in a statement. "It's going to be quite emotional when it's all over — there will be sadness that the project has finished, but happy that we have got it back and everything's up and running again."
The clock's face underwent repair at the Cumbria Clock Company in England's Lake District. During restoration, the company has been cleaning the clock's face, chiming mechanism, and about 1,000 other different parts before returning the clock in November.
"We transplanted the heart of the UK up to Cumbria," Keith Scobie-Youngs, the company's director and co-founder, said in a statement. "We were able to assemble the time side, the heart-beat, and put that on test in our workshop, so for two years we had that heartbeat ticking away in our test room, which was incredibly satisfying. It became part of the family and its departure has been like a child leaving home."
Before its big moment, Big Ben had a few test rings on Dec. 29 and 30. On its official reintroduction on New Year's Eve, the bell rang at noon, 4 p.m., and every hour on the hour from 9 p.m. until midnight.
Traditionally, Big Ben just referred to the name of the largest bell inside the Elizabeth Tower at London's Houses of Parliaments. But these days, the name refers to the entire clock tower.
Repairs on the Great Clock are not quite complete and the bell will soon begin a period of tests before returning to regular service. Residents around Westminster will hear Big Ben's chimes in late January and continue throughout the spring. At the end of the test period, the bells will ring out regularly with their famous "Westminster Quarters" melody.