Big Ben pealed for the last time at 7 a.m. EST this morning before going silent for four years.
Great Britain’s iconic Big Ben will spend the next four years in silence as conservation work begins on the clock tower housing it in London, according to AFP.
AFP reported Monday that the work will result in the longest period of quiet from Big Ben in the bell’s 157-year history.
“Big Ben falling silent is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project,” Steve Jaggs, whose official title is “Keeper of the Great Clock,” said in a Houses of Parliament statement Monday.
“This essential programme of works will safeguard the clock on a long term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home – the Elizabeth Tower.”
Some Twitter users on Monday expressed surprise that Big Ben, which is the Elizabeth Tower’s largest of five bells, will not chime in the next four years.
Jaggs’ statement said that Big Ben’s final chime will occur at 12 p.m. local time on August 21 before preservation work begins at the Elizabeth Tower.
The tower’s clock will silently count the time until 2021, according to AFP, and its chimes will ring out for major occasions such as New Year’s Eve.
The clock’s cogs, hands and four dials will reportedly be taken out, cleaned and repaired as part of the preservation efforts.
The project’s cost was projected to be roughly 31.9 million Euros last year, or about $37.7 million.
A modern electric motor will power the clock hands while the traditional clock mechanism is being refurbished.
Parliament added that the clock’s faces would remain covered up while the repairs are unfolding.
“However, to ensure that the public are still able to set their watches by this most important of time pieces, one working clock face will remain visible at all times throughout the works,” it said.
The name “Big Ben” refers to the Elizabeth Tower’s Great Bell but is often used to describe the entire structure itself.
The Elizabeth Tower stands 315 feet high and is the most photographed building in Great Britain.