UK

The sound of Big Ben’s bongs to return to BBC Radio 4 next week

The Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament, known as Big Ben (John Walton/PA)
The Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament, known as Big Ben (John Walton/PA) The Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament, known as Big Ben (John Walton/PA)

The sound of Big Ben’s bongs will return to BBC Radio 4 next week after not being heard live on the station since New Year’s Eve 2022.

The chiming of the famous landmark on Radio 4 had largely been paused while conservation work took place on the Elizabeth Tower. The work started in 2017.

Recorded “bongs” were used to mark the network’s programming and occasionally live chimes were used for special events, such as Remembrance Sunday.

On Monday November 6, the famous bell will be heard live just before the 6pm news bulletin and again before midnight.

Winter weather Jan 25th 2023
Winter weather Jan 25th 2023 The Elizabeth Tower, commonly known as Big Ben, in Westminster, London (Aaron Chown/PA)

Following this, listeners will once again be able to hear Big Ben before Radio 4’s Westminster Hour political discussion programme at 10pm on Sundays.

Now that microphones and a live set-up have been installed, the chimes will form part of Radio 4’s regular schedule where they will be heard live twice daily and three times on Sundays.

To mark the nation’s two-minute silence on Saturday November 11, Big Ben will also be heard live on Armistice Day at 11am and at 3pm on Christmas Day, before the King’s speech is broadcast on Radio 4.

This New Year’s Eve, live at midnight, Big Ben will ring in the New Year for Radio 4 listeners with the sound of 12 full chimes broadcast live to mark the arrival of 2024.

On Christmas Eve in 2018 the bells of Rochdale Town Hall replaced the usual chimes of Big Ben on BBC Radio 4.

Big Ben’s famous bongs had been silenced in August 2017 as major conservation work began.

The Elizabeth Tower, which sits at the north-eastern end of the Houses of Parliament and is known as Big Ben after the bell inside, was covered in scaffolding during the restoration work.

Between 2017 and 2022 the tower, and the clockwork and bell mechanism within it, underwent the biggest repair and conservation project in its history.

Big Ben repairs
Big Ben repairs Scaffolding being erected around the Elizabeth Tower (Gareth Fuller/PA)

It was repaired from the gilt cross and orb at its tip to the bottom of its 334-step staircase.

The deafening chimes were stopped, only returning for special occasions, to protect workers who were renovating the Great Clock and its bell.

The clock was installed in 1859 with the aim of creating the most accurate public timepiece in the world.

In 2022, as the country headed into winter, all four faces of Big Ben were put back to GMT for the first time in five years.