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Throng out for swansong Big Ben bong after ban ding-dong

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London to lose Big Ben's iconic bongs for years

Thousands gathered near Westminster Palace at midday local time (11:00 GMT) on Monday to watch as the tower's bells rang out for one last time - even though it will still sound to mark events such as Christmas Day and Remembrance Day.

The timepiece is being silenced to protect the ears of the workers involved in the 29 million pound ($37 million) renovation of the Elizabeth Tower, which houses the clock and its bell and was named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee, which marked her 60th year on the throne.

Earlier this year, a spokesperson for the prime minister's office at 10 Downing Street said Brexit would come into effect "when Big Ben bongs midnight" in the first second of March 30, 2019.

"The bongs last fell silent for maintenance in 2007, and prior to that between 1983-1985 as part of a previous large-scale refurbishment program", the government said.

If you've ever been to London you'll have noticed that the loud bongs of Big Ben chime out across the entire metropolis to remind each and every one of us liberal elites of the passing of the time in our vast, democratic capital.

Some have argued that silencing the iconic bell during renovation work is unnecessary.

The clock's keeper, Steve Jaggs, said Big Ben falling silent was a "significant milestone" in the project to restore the tower.

The Commons commission said it will review the timetable after complaints were raised, including by Theresa May, who said it "cannot be right" for the bells not to chime regularly for four years. The upcoming fix on the 158-year-old timepiece is not just a simple case of winding up, but rather requires a great amount of work.

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Tory MP Conor Burns told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour: "I think when you see the footage tomorrow of our colleagues who gather at the foot of Big Ben you will not see too many colleagues who have careers ahead of them". "I'm sure they could figure out a way to make a bell ring and not damage the hearing of the workers".

The lower sections of the 96-metre-tall clock tower housing Big Ben are already covered in scaffolding, which is expected to cover the clock faces at times.

The Blitz couldn't silence Big Ben, but health and safety can.

During the four years of works the dials, hands and lights will be removed for restoration.

"You don't know what you've got till it's gone", he said.

Big Ben was completed in 1859 and according to its maker Ian Westworth it is 'the prince of timekeepers: the biggest, most accurate, four-facing striking and chiming clock in the world'.

They want the timescale for repairs tightened, and House of Commons officials say they will take another look at the schedule once Parliament returns next month from its summer break.

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