Big Ben’s £80,000,000 new look finally unveiled after five years hidden in scaffolding

Big Ben seen without scaffolding at the top
Worth the wait? (Picture: Reuters/PA)

If you’ve walked over Westminster Bridge over the last few years, you’ve probably noticed a dark tower of scaffolding dominating the area.

That depressing pillar was what used used to be the most famous clock in the UK – probably even the world.

It was covered up for renovation works in 2017, with the clock face only peeking out from a grid of grey metal.

Now, we can finally see what that £80 million price tag was all about.

After five years, the whole top of the tower can be seen free from scaffolding and Big Ben is out of its cocoon ready to be a butterfly. Or at least, to remind us what the time is.

And people are impressed by the new look, with some even thinking it was worth the money.

The clock hands have been restored to their original blue, having been painted black previously to try and mask the dirt from pollution.

Big Ben's clock face looking sparkling and new
The hands of the clock are now blue instead of black (Picture: Reuters/PA)
Big Ben's clockface looking blue
Blue Ben? (Picture: PA)
The clock while work was being carried out
The clock while work was being carried out (Picture: UK Parliament/PA)

We’ve had a glimpse of that since September last year, but still surrounded by scaffolding.

Now, even more of the top of the tower is visible, so if you were missing that classic London photo in your album then now is the time to get snapping.

Work on the The Elizabeth Tower (as it is officially called – Big Ben is just the bell inside) was initially supposed to cost around £29 million.

But the costs spiralled, and it is still not completely finished, with the finishing touches expected by summer this year – a year later than planned, due to the pandemic.

While work was carried out, the famous bongs only rang out on a handful of special occasions, such as New Year and Armistice Day.

Other key details have also returned to architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin’s original design, such as the row of six shields above each dial that displays St George’s red cross on a white background.

The clock, which was built in 1859, was removed to the Cumbria Clock Company in the Lake District, where it was painstakingly cleaned and repaired.

Clock mechanic Ian Westworth said: ‘To have had our hands on every single nut and bolt is a huge privilege.

‘It’s going to be quite emotional when it’s all over — there will be sadness that the project has finished, but happiness that we have got it back and everything’s up and running again.’

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