'Temperamental' Big Ben off by six seconds

The 156-year-old clock has been out by up to six seconds recently, and as a result has caused interruption on Radio 4, which broadcasts the clock’s chimes live

London: Big Ben has become “temperamental” and can be off by up to six seconds because it is so old, British Parliament’s clocksmiths have admitted, in an unsettling news for those who set their watches by the bongs of the world’s most popular clock in London.

big ben
TImeteller’s tale: The Big Ben is believed to have been out of time for around two weeks. The keeper of the clock said that it is not a digital clock, it’s not electronic. It does take a lot of love and care. Pic/AFP

For the past fortnight the 156-year-old clock’s chimes and bongs, which signify the passing of the hour, have been off, interrupting broadcasts of BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

The Houses of Parliament’s three dedicated clocksmiths were dispatched to deal with the problem by removing weights from the pendulum.

They admit, however, that they “don't know why it has happened” and that the clocks age means that it “fits every now and then”.

Steve Jaggs, the keeper of the clock, said, “We carry out regular checks because this is a mechanical cost. It does take a lot of love and care. We have got three highly skilled members of staff dedicated to looking after all the clocks. They were dispatched immediately.”

Big Ben, the 13.7-tonne bell with distinctive bongs at the Palace of Westminster, is the name of the Great Bell at the top of the 96-metre-high Elizabeth Tower looming over the Houses of Parliament.

Installed in 1859, each clock face is made up of 312 pieces of opal glass set in a cast iron frame.

Number of opal glass pieces, set in a cast iron frame, used in making up each face of the clock

The weight of the Big Ben, which sits atop 96-metre-high Elizabeth Tower looming over the Houses of Parliament

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