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Big Ben's new look
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Big Ben’s five-year makeover is (almost) complete – and it’s genuinely breathtaking

Londoners reacted to the tower's glow up on Twitter

Written by
Ellie Muir

Big Ben has scrubbed up. The iconic clocktower disappeared beneath layers of scaffolding five years ago, when it was announced it was undergoing a £79.7 million reconstruction. More than 1,000 pieces of the clock faces were carefully taken apart and removed via a lift shaft, down the centre of the 96-metre tall Victorian tower.

This week, Londoners have been shocked to see the top of Big Ben emerge from the dreary scaffolding with a brand spanking new colour: glistening gold.

Over the past five years, the Cumbria Clock Company (co-founded by Keith Scobie-Youngs) has worked tirelessly in its workshop in the village of Dacre, near Penrith, carefully cleaning and repairing hundreds of pieces – including the wheels, pinions, bell-hammers and bearings of the clock face. This renovation marks the first time that the hefty 11-and-a-half-tonne mechanism has been removed from its home in the Elizabeth Tower during its 160-year lifetime. Londoners took to Twitter to express delight at the result:

‘Maybe it’s worth the wait?’

- David Belle @davidbelle_ January 11 2022

‘The glinting golden frame… emerald details… intricate gold flower face… celestial blue dial and hands... Ben is beautiful’

- Starra Lune @starralune January 12 2022

The last five years restoring Big Ben have been sentimental for the team at The Cumbria Clock Company. Its director and co-founder Keith Scobie-Youngs wrote on the Parliament website: ‘It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work on the best-known clock in the world.’

‘We transplanted the heart of the UK up to Cumbria. We were able to assemble the time side, the heartbeat, and put that on test in our workshop, so for two years, we had that heartbeat ticking away in our test room, which was incredibly satisfying,’ he said. ‘It became part of the family and its departure has been like a child leaving home.  

‘The beauty of a clock like this is that you as a clockmaker become part of its history and want to leave it in a better place than you found it, so the next clockmaker can appreciate it. We were privileged to become part of the story of Big Ben; everyone at the company feels that attachment to the story.’ 

With the rest of Big Ben’s new look expected to be unveiled throughout 2022, we can only expect even more glistening gold, brightening up London’s sky once again.

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