Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big Ben tours resume

Public tours to Big Ben have resumed after the bell's famous clock tower was closed for maintenance work. The hourly bongs and the quarter bells of the clock at Westminster Palace in central London fell silent for seven weeks, restarting earlier this month.

The works included the replacement of bearings that sound the chimes. The bell weighs 13.5 tonnes and is named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the man who was Commissioner of Works when it was installed in 1859.

The first group of 16 began their tour at 1030 BST on Tuesday. The group were shown around the clock tower, which has 393 steps to the top, and also saw pictures of the recent work on the landmark.

The timekeeper undergoes maintenance work, including a thorough cleaning of the clock face, every five years. The free hour-long tour is available only for UK residents who need to put in a request to their local MP.

The restoration programme has been carried out prior to the clock's 150th anniversary in 2009.

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