London’s Big Ben has sounded the hour for the last time before falling silent for repair work due to last almost four years.
The giant bell atop the United Kingdom parliament’s clock tower rang out at noon, as it has almost every hour since 1859, becoming a famous sound of London.
Hundreds of parliamentary staff, journalists and MPs gathered in a courtyard under the Victorian clock tower, while hundreds more tourists lined footpaths and filled nearby Parliament Square.
Media outlets in Britain and beyond broadcast the final set of 12 bongs live at noon.
“The sounds of London will not be the same without its chiming heartbeat,” tweeted the prime minister’s business ambassador, Stephen Kelly.
Charity The Poetry Society quoted poem The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe on Twitter to mark the beginning of Big Ben’s long silence until 2021.
The break will allow workers to carry out much-needed maintenance to the Victorian clock and clock tower, but will deprive Londoners and tourists of one of the city’s legendary sounds.
Some MPs have criticised the lengthy silence, calling Big Ben an important symbol of British democracy. They want the time scale for repairs tightened.
Big Ben is not due to resume regular timekeeping until 2021, though it will be heard on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve. AP