After almost 150 years of ringing on the hour, the chimes of London’s Big Ben are due to swing to a halt. Starting in early 2017, bells in the U.K. Parliament’s famous clock tower will go un-tolled for several months, while the tower that houses them, whose clock first chimed in 1859, undergoes repairs and upgrades.
“Clock Takes a Rest” might not seem the most gripping of headlines, but it’s hard to underestimate the iconic significance of Big Ben in London and across the U.K. The tower’s chimes sound daily on the radio, often before news bulletins and in the run-up to important announcements. Many Londoners set their watches by it — I live almost a mile away and, in a rare moment of calm, I heard it chime 4 p.m. as I wrote the preceding sentence. Such is our regular exposure to them that the bells’ sonorous clang is easily recognizable to many Brits, reproduced on a thousand ringtones and doorbells. When a clock like this falls silent, it’s almost as if time itself is stopping.