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Why has Big Ben returned to silence after the New Year Celebrations?

Tuesday, 09 January 2018
Why has Big Ben returned to silence after the New Year Celebrations? This image blino9999 in pixabay is licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license

 Big Ben returns to silence after New Year celebrations. Find out why this London icon is in danger by reading our intermediate comprehension exercise with questions and answers.

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Reading comprehension - Intermediate level

London welcomed the year 2018 in the usual way with an impressive New Year's Eve firework display over the River Thames, lighting up the iconic tower of nearby Big Ben or the Great Bell as it is also known. Londoners were proud to hear the sound of Big Ben once again. This famous bell  has been mostly silent since 21st August 2017 when an extensive 4 year repair programme began. Originally there was a decision to turn off the 'bongs' or bells for the whole 4 year programme in order to protect the hearing of the workers.  However, many people were unhappy about this because the Victorian clock has struck every hour almost without fail for 157 years.  Finally, there was a special agreement for the bell to chime on Remembrance Sunday 2017 and also from 9am on 23rd December 2017 until 1pm on 1st January 2018, plus some other important dates. The Keeper of the Clock said that the 'bongs' would return to allow Big Ben to remain the focal point during the festive season of Christmas and New Year.

However, since 1pm on New Year's Day the bell has once more been silent as the £61 million conservation project starts again. The striking hammers which produce the sound have been locked and the enormous 14 tonne bell disconnected from the clock mechanism. Next, the Great Clock (which is now covered in scaffolding) will be taken apart piece by piece during 2018 and examined by specialist workers. The restoration work is part of an urgently-needed maintenance programme for the Elizabeth Tower which houses the clock. Experts have found problems with the actual clock's hands, mechanism and pendulum.  The tower itself also has some cracks, leaks, erosion and rusting of the metalwork. Parts of the clock mechanism were repaired in 2007 but other areas have only had minor maintenance and adjustments over the last 25 years.  If the major restoration programme is not begun immediately there is a real danger that the world-famous clock may fail.

During the repairs, workers will remove and restore the roof of the Elizabeth Tower, repair the bell support frame and stop water leaking into the clock room.  They will also install a lift at the same time. In addition, a brick wall in the tower will be replaced with glass to allow Big Ben to be viewed by people walking up the staircase.  Officials said that the pale colour scheme of the clock face will also be changed to look more vibrant.  Importantly, once these changes are made, we can expect the clock to continue for another 100 years and there will be improved access for future generations. 

Internet Sources 

UK Parliament:  All Your Questions about the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben Works Answered. Available from:  https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/big-ben/elizabeth-tower-and-big-ben-conservation-works-2017-/all-your-questions-about-the-works-answered/#jump-link-0  {2/1/2018}

Quartz:  London's Big Ben is falling silent next week until 2021.  Available from:  https://qz.com/1053051/big-ben-renovation-londons-famous-clock-tower-is-falling-silent-until-2021/  {2/1/2018}

BBC: Big Ben's bongs to fall silent until 2021 for repairs.  Available at:  https://qz.com/1053051/big-ben-renovation-londons-famous-clock-tower-is-falling-silent-until-2021/ {2/1/2018}

 

Why has Big Ben returned to silence after the New Year Celebrations in London? Comprehension questions

1. When did the 4 year repair programme for Big Ben begin?

2.  What is the alternative name for the bell we normally call Big Ben?

3.  What parts of the clock itself need repair?

4.  What may happen if we don't make the repairs to the clockwork?

5.  After the repairs are complete, what is the expected lifetime of the repaired clock?

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published in Graded Reading 2018
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Last modified on Sunday, 13 May 2018 19:28

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