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Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock at the Palace of Westminster
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a Parliamentary clock keeper

Written by
Charley Ross

…according to Steve Jaggs, 53.

Most tourists (and some Londoners) don’t know what Big Ben actually is

‘I get tourists asking me if they can have their picture taken with Big Ben when they’re standing outside Westminster Palace. Big Ben is the bell. The clock tower was originally called the Clock Tower, then renamed Elizabeth Tower after the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.’

If the Westminster clock loses time, there are consequences

‘I was whisked to the BBC in a Mercedes after Radio 4 found that Big Ben was eight seconds fast. It was interfering with the beginning of their radio shows, because they use the live sound of the bells. I had to explain why it was running fast and that we were working to fix it.’

Big Ben has lots of little brothers

‘The Palace of Westminster has 2,000 clocks that require maintenance. When they have to be put back or forward, it takes my team and me an entire weekend. We also get roughly 42,000 maintenance calls every year.’

The night of the Brexit vote was cataclysmic

‘Heavy rainfall led to one of the worst floods we’ve ever had. I was there all night with buckets and tankards. A lot of expensive carpet was damaged.’

The Palace of Westminster gets ceremonially searched every year

‘My knowledge of the palace is put to good use during the ceremonial search of the basement. The head of maintenance leads the search along a designated route through the palace basement with a ceremonial key, lit only by oil lamp. Meanwhile, I watch from off-camera and make sure they don’t get lost.’

Now discover 16 amazing things you probably didn’t know about Big Ben.

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