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Big Ben falls silent as British Summer Time begins

Elizabeth Tower fell silent on Saturday night. A team from the Palace of Westminster Clockmakers climbed the tower to physically move the clock’s hands from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time.

Besides the clock at the Elizabeth Tower, the team of clockmakers still had 2,000 clocks dotted around the Palace of Westminster and other parliamentary buildings to change in readiness for British Summer Time.

Elizabeth Tower is situated at the north end of the Palace of Westminster and was completed in 1858. The tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower, to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Previously it was referred to as the ‘Clock Tower’. One of the most prominent tourist attractions in the United Kingdom, Big Ben attracts millions of visitors each year and in 2008 a survey of 2,000 people found that the tower was the most popular landmark in the United Kingdom.

At 9:48pm on Saturday night, the shining light that comes from the clock was switched off as the clockmakers got to work at moving the clocks hands forward. The hands were moved forward to midnight, and the team of workers set the clock running again at 11pm (which was now 12am). The clockmakers then watched Big Ben run for two hours, without its famous bongs, checking it was in time to the exact second.

For two years during the First World War from 1916, the bells of Big Ben were silenced, and the shining face darkened so as to prevent attacks from German zeppelins.

The same practice was applied during the Second World War. From the 1st September 1939 although the bells still chimed, the clock face was darkened at night to prevent guiding pilots of the Luftwaffe during their intense Blitz on London.

Thankfully in 2015 the shining light began shining again, and the bells began chiming again soon after they stopped as Big Ben resumed normal service at 2am (1am GMT).

London had its bongs back!

photo credit: Paul Falardeau

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