The bells of the Elizabeth Tower – including Big Ben – will return to regular service from 11 am on Remembrance Sunday 13th November 2022.
The Two Minutes of Silence at 11 am on Remembrance Sunday will mark the official return of the Elizabeth Tower’s bells after they were silenced at the beginning of the conservation programme in 2017.
As it has done throughout the works, Big Ben will strike 11 times to mark the start of the Two Minutes of Silence at 11 am on Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday – joining bells across the country and worldwide to commemorate those that lost their lives in the two world wars and later conflicts.
Permanent reconnection of the bells is subject to tests of the mechanism completing to a satisfactory standard. As such, tests will be taking place from Tuesday 8th November.
Big Ben and the quarter bells will be heard over the following periods:
On Friday 11th November – Armistice Day – Big Ben will be struck 11 times at 11 am, preceded by the quarter bells.
On Sunday 13th November – Remembrance Sunday – Big Ben will be struck 11 times at 11 am to mark the start of the Two Minutes Silence, preceded by the quarter bells.
This will coordinate with events taking place at the Cenotaph and mark the official moment of permanent reconnection.
About the Elizabeth Tower conservation project
To ensure that the UK’s most famous clock continues to keep time, specialist teams carry out regular maintenance and adjustments to the Great Clock. However, it has been over 32 years since the last extensive works were carried out to maintain the clock and Elizabeth Tower.
Essential conservation work is close to completion, and has included:
- Repairs to the Elizabeth Tower, which could not be rectified whilst the Great Clock is in action. This included repairing cracks in the masonry, leaks, erosion, and severe rusting of the metalwork.
- Conservation of significant elements of the Tower, as designed by architects Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin. Part of this included bringing the colour scheme back to the original design – fully revealed in December 2021.
- Repairs and redecoration of the interior, renewing the building services and making improvements to health and safety and fire protection systems.
Scaffolding has been removed from the exterior, along with the complex gantry system that was installed to protect the building and support the scaffold structure itself. The original Victorian clock mechanism has been re-installed, and hoardings removed around the base of the Tower. Earlier this month, the clock dials’ new energy-efficient LED illumination was switched on for the first time – and now has the ability to change colour when required. The Ayrton Light – which shines whenever either House is sitting – has now also been switched back on.
Work to the exterior is now complete and the majority of works inside the Tower are close to conclusion. Soon after the bells have returned to regular service, the power supplies will be activated and fire safety works completed. The principal contractor will remain on site until December 2022 to ensure works have been completed to a satisfactory standard, supporting the handover to teams delivering the visitor offer.
Parliament expects to welcome its first visitors back inside the Elizabeth Tower in 2023, following the installation and testing of new exhibition spaces, workshops and tour routes. More information on the visitor offer will be provided in the coming months.
Striking during the conservation programme
In addition to Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve, the Elizabeth Tower also acted as a key focal point for the nation during the mourning period for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As Her Majesty’s Coffin was brought from Buckingham Palace for the Lying-in-State in Westminster Hall, Big Ben tolled at one-minute intervals. Following the State Funeral, Big Ben tolled at one-minute intervals as the Procession left Westminster Abbey and moved towards Wellington Arch.
About Big Ben
Big Ben is thought to be named after Sir Benjamin Hall, Chief Commissioner of Works at the time the bell was installed. The first bell, cast in 1856 at Stockton-on-Tees, was brought to London by rail and sea. During tests in New Palace Yard a fatal crack appeared. The bell was broken up and a second bell was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
After successful tests this bell was hauled sideways up a shaft inside the Tower. After a few months the new bell also cracked and was silent for four years. It was restored to full voice in 1863, when the bell was rotated 90 degrees and a lighter hammer was installed.
- Weight: 13.7 tonnes
- Height: 2.2m
- Diameter: 2.7m
- Musical note when struck: E
- Hammer weight: 200kg
About the Elizabeth Tower
Standing at 96 metres tall, the Elizabeth Tower is a focal point of the Grade I listed Palace of Westminster, which forms a part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not only is it a world-famous landmark, it is also one of the most photographed buildings in the UK.
The name Big Ben is often used to describe the Elizabeth Tower, the clock and the bell, but the name was first given to the Great Bell. The Elizabeth Tower, which stands at the north end of the Houses of Parliament, was completed in 1859 and the Great Clock started on 31st May, with the Great Bell’s strikes heard for the first time on 11th July and the quarter bells chiming on 7th September.