London

Bye (for now) Big Ben

Today marks an historic event unlike any other in recent years. At midday today Big Ben will chime for the last time for four years. In that time Thames Rockets will have navigated over 100,000 more trips on the river Thames!

The Elizabeth Clock Tower which houses Big Ben (the bell) and four smaller bells will be falling silent while it undergoes essential maintenance works. After almost 160 years of unbroken service we agree it’s time for a well-earned holiday for the world famous landmark.

Although muting the iconic chimes is a controversial move, Parliamentary authorities have explained that it is entirely necessary for the health and safety of the team working on the restoration project.

A spokeswoman said: ‘The chimes are being stopped to provide a safe environment for the people working on the scaffolding’, and that ‘constant proximity to the chimes would pose a serious risk to their hearing, and would prevent efficient working.’

With the 13.5 tonne bell (we think of that as two Thames Rockets) able to generate 118 decibels this is rather understandable. However, did you know that Big Ben is not actually the original bell?

To begin with the contract to create the bell was awarded to a company called Warner’s of Norton in Stockton-on-Tees. A 16.5 tonne bell was forged and delivered to London before the clock tower was ready. For several months, the bell was tested outside the tower. It was working perfectly until the man who designed it, Edmund Beckett Denison, decided he wanted it louder so added a much larger hammer. Three weeks later the bell broke.

That bell was sent to Whitechapel Bell Foundry in pieces and melted down to create the new 13.5 tonne bell. Once this one was complete, it took 32 hours to winch it up the tower on its side – this the equivalent amount of time of a Thames Rocket going to the Thames Barrier and back 24 times!

We will all be a little sad to see the chimes silenced for the next four years. However, in true Thames Rockets style we surprised our midday passengers by taking them out a little early so they could witness the final chimes from a very special vantage point. Oh, and we also broadcast on Facebook Live for everyone else to enjoy!

You can check out and view the footage on our Facebook page here.

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