Visitors will be able to see Big Ben up close for the first time under plans to turn the Elizabeth Tower into a fully fledged tourist attraction. Before the recent renovations started, the only way to see the bell up close was to contact a Member of Parliament and then climb 334 steps to the cramped belfry.
When work finishes in 2021 it will be opened to international visitors as well if MPs approve the plan as they are expected to do. A new viewing platform and exhibition space are under construction, as well as a lift to the top.
The complex £61 million restoration has reached its half way point, 160 years after Big Ben chimed for the first time in 1859.
While the 13.7-tonne bell has remained in place, the clock, which was the most accurate in the world when installed in 1854, has been removed and reconditioned. The metal frames of the four faces have been blast cleaned, painted blue in keeping with the original design, and rebuilt with 324 individual opal-coloured glass. It was also discovered during renovations that the roof and southern clockface had been damaged by a bomb that hit the Commons in 1941. This meant more substantial repairs than expected.
This major renovation project means that both the clock and the tower will be here and working for future generations and without a doubt, this will turn into one of London’s most popular attractions when it opens to visitors.