Big Ben symbolises London and is an iconic part of the British capital's skyline. But from 2017 to 2020, Big Ben will look and sound very different, because it needs major repairs.
The tower, clock and Big Ben bell have given more than 150 years faithful service, including continuing to ring the quarter hours and hours all through the London Blitz in WW2. Now, major repair work has become urgent. The work started in April 2017. For the first six months, scaffolding is being installed around the clock tower. Then one clock face at a time will be removed and be sent away for renovation.
One thing won't be repaired – like America's iconic Liberty Bell, the Big Ben bell has a small crack. It appeared two years after the bell was put into service. It is believed that it is this imperfection which gives the Big Ben chime it's distinctive and well-loved sound.
If you'd like to know more about how the incredibly accurate clock works, there is an excellent animation on the British Parliament site. You don't need to understand all the technical language to get a sense of how intricate the clock mechanism is. And when you get to the last page, you are rewarded with the sound of Big Ben's quarter-hour chimes.
Don't miss our Ready-to-Use resource for A2-level pupils about the Big Ben repairs, including a great short video about changing the clock back and forward for British Summer Time.