Big Ben is turned to GMT for the first time in FIVE years

Big Ben is turned to GMT for the first time in FIVE years after huge renovation project, as the clocks go back across Britain

  • Big Ben’s old Victorian mechanism was renovated as part of its restoration  
  • The repair work and conservation project was the biggest in its 160-year history 
  • Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the clock change ‘will herald a new beginning’
  • Clocks ticked back an hour overnight at 2am, returning to GMT for the winter

Big Ben was turned to GMT for the first time in five years overnight, following a huge renovation project, as the clocks went back across Britain. 

As part of a huge restoration project the clock’s original Victorian mechanism was renovated while the scaffolding surrounding the tower has gradually been brought down since December 2021.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the clock change ‘will herald a new beginning’ for the central London landmark.

Parliament’s team of mechanics will spend 24 hours over the weekend ensuring all 2,000 timepieces across the estate are changed in time for the clocks to go back on October 30.

Over the past five years the Elizabeth Tower, and the clockwork and bell mechanism within it, have undergone the biggest repair and conservation project in its 160-year history.

As part of a huge restoration project the clock’s original Victorian mechanism was renovated while the scaffolding surrounding the tower has gradually been brought down since December 2021 (Pictured: Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle wearing a fluorescent jacket and hard hat)

Sir Lindsay Hoyle (pictured) said the clock change ‘will herald a new beginning’ for the central London landmark

It will take Parliament’s team of clock mechanics a total of 24 hours over the weekend to ensure that all 2,000 timepieces across the estate are changed in time for the clocks to go back on October 30

The tower, at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament, which is also known as Big Ben after the bell inside, has been covered in scaffolding during the restoration work.

Sir Lindsay said: ‘While the rest of us are tucked up in our beds, our own father time (clock maker) Ian Westworth and the team will be clocking up eight miles changing our parliamentary clocks, including the one we love the most, the Great Clock of Westminster, better known as Big Ben.

The tower, at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament, which is also known as Big Ben after the bell inside, has been covered in scaffolding during the restoration work

‘For the first time in five years they will be working with the clock’s completed original Victorian mechanism, so it is a significant final moment in the conservation of this magnificent timepiece.’

It will be the first time that the clock has been put back to GMT since it was restored and installed in the tower earlier this year.

Sir Lindsay added: ‘Big Ben’s bongs will once again return to our national soundtrack on Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, striking 11 times to mark the start of the two minutes’ silence.’

Sir Lindsay (pictured) said it was a ‘significant final moment in the conservation of this magnificent timepiece’

People will only be aware that Big Ben is being changed to GMT when the lights go out on its four dial faces at 10pm on Saturday.

Parliamentary clock mechanic Alex Jeffrey said: ‘This is so people looking up do not wonder why the hands are going round and get confused.

‘Under the cover of darkness we effectively stop the clock and hold it for two hours, only restarting it again at midnight and putting the dial lights back on at 2am when it is officially GMT.’

People will only be aware that Big Ben is being changed to GMT when the lights go out on its four dial faces at 10pm on Saturday

The clocks go back every year heading into winter to allow people to start and finish their working day an hour earlier.

People therefore have an hour less daylight as the evenings become darker.  

The clock was designed and installed in 1859, with the aim of creating the most accurate public timepiece in the world.

When black paint was stripped away from the dials during repair work last year, it was discovered that it was originally painted in a colour known as Prussian blue.

Mr Taylor (pictured), who is one of 250 horologists in the country, has dedicated 35 years to the craft and has restored between 5,000 and 10,000 timepieces

Meanwhile, as Parliament’s mechanics are busy changing the clocks in the Palace of Westminster, one of the country’s last horologists has been preparing himself to turn back hundreds of clocks of his own this weekend.

Mr Taylor, who is one of 250 horologists in the country, has dedicated 35 years to the craft and has restored between 5,000 and 10,000 timepieces.

The grandfather has spent months looking for younger people to learn the trade so it does not die out.   

His search has been largely unsuccessful and left him with the task of winding back the clocks at his shop in Bournemouth, Dorset.   

The grandfather has spent months looking for younger people to learn the trade so it does not die out (Pictured: M.C.Taylor shop)

The former Royal Martine, who served in Northern Ireland, is hopeful he will find an enthusiastic apprentice in the Spring. 

He said: ‘Every year we get a flood of new customers when the clocks go back because people damage their clocks.

‘The best thing that people can do is just stop the clocks and then start them back up an hour later.

The former Royal Martine (pictured), who served in Northern Ireland, is hopeful he will find an enthusiastic apprentice in the Spring

‘We already have a three year waiting list because of the lack of clockmakers in the country.

‘It’ll take me hours and hours to sort all of the clocks in our shop and while I’m doing it I just know there’ll be hundreds of people messing their clocks up.

‘For the last six months I’ve been looking for an apprentice to pass on the skills I’ve learnt over the last 35 years.

‘I want someone who is a bit obsessive and has a real eye for detail, it’s got to be a passion.

‘Clockmaking is a bit of a mystical art because you have to be taught by a master of the craft and there aren’t many of us left now.

‘The Heritage Crafts Association recently said that there are fewer than 250 of us left, that’s lower than the number of brain surgeons in the country.

‘I think it probably takes 15 to 20 years before someone really knows their stuff and I hope I can take someone on soon.’

The news comes as part of Kwasi Kwarteng’s budget, the former chancellor, wanted to drop the autumnal putting back of the clocks. 

Truss’s former government decided to U-turn on the decision which means households will have to update their appliances today, the Times reported. 

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