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Elizabeth Tower restored

Elizabeth Tower, Palace of Westminster
Elizabeth Tower

The Elizabeth Tower is the face of the British Houses of Parliament. It houses the clock, which faces out to the world on four faces, and contains the bells which chime, the largest is known as Big Ben. The Tower was known as Big Ben until 2012 when it was renamed Elizabeth to honour the 60-year reign of our monarch.

Built in 1859, then called the King’s Tower, it was renamed the Victoria Tower to mark the 60th year of her reign. Much more information is available at https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/big-ben/

Clock mechanism
Clock mechanism

As a child on an exciting trip to London my parents took me to climb the 334 steps to the top of the tower. It will still be possible to join a group, once restoration is completed. Look at https://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/tours-of-parliament/bigben/. You must ask your MP (I know mine will not join me. the stairs would kill her).

I signed my name of the white wall behind the west-facing clock face and was fascinated to be told that the clock’s accuracy was determined by placing a Victorian penny on the regulator. There’s plenty of detail about the clock at https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/big-ben/facts-figures/great-clock-facts/

That’s all about to change as the tower is being completely restored. The original cost was £29 million, that has now crept p to £61 million, no doubt thanks to the vigilance of the quantity surveyors (QS) on the project. As I was once a QS I can only applaud their determination, as a tax-payer I remain doubtful.

Restoration

Started in 2017 it is nearing completion in 2020. The scaffolding is slowly being removed. Once complete we shall see several changes. Plenty of gold leaf, black paint removed by a tasteful blue. The new colour scheme brings the Tower back to its original state, with over 14 layers of black paint removed.

cleaning clock face

Restoring has meant undertaking key internal and external conservation and refurbishment works, including waterproofing and addressing severe condensation problems as well as modernising the building to improve standards in safety, access and visitor and workspace facilities. The project includes:

  • Work to prevent the clock mechanism from failing, as it is currently in a chronic state.
  • Addressing urgent problems caused by decay to the fabric of the building, both internally and externally.
  • Health & safety and fire safety improvements, including installation of a lift.
  • Enhanced energy efficiency through modern lighting of the tower face and other measures.
broken steps
Broken steps

Brief History

1289-90
The first clock tower was erected in New Palace Yard. It had one dial and a bell

1367
The early clock tower was replaced with a new tower and clock. This was the first public chiming clock in England.

1699
The clock tower had fallen into disrepair. Its bell was sent to St Paul’s Cathedral but broke en route

1707
The medieval clock tower was pulled down and a sun dial put up in its place

1716
The bell from the clock tower was recast and later hung in the South West Tower of St Paul’s Cathedral. If Big Ben is ever unable to strike, the bell in St Paul’s is heard instead

1834
The Palace of Westminster was almost completely destroyed by fire.

1840
Construction of the new Palace of Westminster began. Architect, Charles Barry won the commission to design the new palace and included a clock tower in his final designs.

1843
Construction began on the Clock Tower. Foundation stone was laid.

1846
A competition was held to decide who should build the clock. The Astronomer Royal, Sir George Airy was the referee. Stipulations for the clocks accuracy meant it took seven years before the designs were finalised.

1852
John Dent was appointed to build the clock to the designs of Edmund Beckett Denison. This was the same year that the new Palace of Westminster, designed by architect Sir Charles Barry with the assistance of Augustus Welby Pugin, was opened by Queen Victoria at the State Opening.

1854
The clock mechanism was completed.

1856
The first ‘Big Ben’ bell was cast at Warners of Norton near Stockton-on-Tees, the bell was originally to be called ‘Royal Victoria’.

1857
The first ‘Big Ben’ developed a four foot (1.2m) crack during testing and was condemned. Warners, the bell’s manufacturer, and Edmund Beckett Denison, designer of the Great Clock, clashed over who was responsible for the damage.

1858
In April, the second ‘Big Ben’ was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in East London. It was transported to New Palace Yard on a carriage drawn by 16 white horses and raised to the belfry.

1859
The Great Clock started ticking on 31 May and the Great Bell’s strikes were heard for the first time on 11 July. Later that year, Big Ben was found to be fractured in two places. While a solution was sought, Big Ben remained silent with the largest quarter bell striking the hourly chime.

1863
At the suggestion of Sir George Airy, the Astronomer Royal, Big Ben was turned by an eighth and the hammer size was reduced thus allowing Big Ben to strike the hours once more. A telegraphic link to the Greenwich Observatory was installed to check the accuracy of the time keeping.

1923
BBC Radio first broadcast Big Ben’s chimes to the United Kingdom on New Year’s Eve.

1932
Big Ben’s strikes broadcast internationally for the first time by the Empire Service (later the World Service) as part of King George V’s Christmas broadcast.

1939
From this date until April 1945, the clock dials remained in darkness to comply with blackout regulations during the Second World War.

1945
The clock dials were re-illuminated when the wartime blackout regulations were lifted.

1976
In the middle of the night on the 5 August, a mechanical failure caused serious damage to the Great Clock. The pendulum weights spiralled out of control down the weight shaft and the clock mechanism exploded. Big Ben was silenced for nearly nine months. The repairs were completed in time for the bells to ring out to mark the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee visit to Westminster Hall in May 1977.

2007
Big Ben and the quarter bells were silenced from 11 August to 1 October while the Great Clock underwent essential maintenance work.

2009
Big Ben celebrated its 150th anniversary with a year of events and activities.

2012
The Clock Tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower to honour Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.

Ideas

The House of Parliament are about to face a restoration project of its own. That cost will be considerable. Ideally (in my opinion) we would gain much by building a new Parliament somewhere around Lindley Hall Farm, Leicestershire (near Fenny Drayton and Higham on the Hill) (52°33′42.942″N 1°27′53.474″W; SP 36373.66 96143.05) [7] A plaque denoting this point, and disputing the “traditional” centre of England as being at Meriden in the West Midlands, was erected by Ordnance Survey on 14 June 2013.

Lindley Hall Farm, designated centre of England
Lindley Hall Farm

This location assumes that Scotland will leave the United Kingdom. Whatever place is chosen it will help us all to move the centre of power out of London. After all Canberra became Australia’s capital once all the indigenous folk had been removed. Think of the housing possibilities, and the reduced risk of running into Al Jemal.

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Lockwood Podcasts Suffolk

Phoebe Lockwood

Recording by George Ewart Evans of Phoebe Lockwood

http://sounds.bl.uk/embed/Oral-history/George-Ewart-Evans-collection/021M-T1418WXXXXXX-0700V0

Phoebe Lockwood talks about her life

http://sounds.bl.uk/embed/Oral-history/George-Ewart-Evans-collection/021M-T1453WXXXXXX-0300V0

Phoebe tells about cooking hares.

http://sounds.bl.uk/embed/Oral-history/George-Ewart-Evans-collection/021M-T1447RXXXXXX-0700V0

http://sounds.bl.uk/embed/Oral-history/George-Ewart-Evans-collection/021M-T1447RXXXXXX-0900V0

Suffolk riddles

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Podcasts

Ideas for the Future

Trevor aged 45

Fortunately I’ve been given free rein to say whatever I like. At least that’s the way it is at present, it’s likely to change. I remember George Orwell, a visionary, whose works should now be taken very seriously. His book, 1984, may have been premature but it is finding its time now.

Rather than moaning on about what is wrong it’s time to broaden horizons; to think outside the box!

Let’s make a start; Nation State

Why are we geographically restricted? It makes little sense, particularly now that we have people moving all around the globe. There are 166 different languages spoken in parts of London. Why does geography play such an important place in our lives?

The Nation State has become an irrelevance. It is little more than a system of control.

In England, which is where I live, we have first past the post elections. In my county, in East Anglia, everyone is biased, so we always get the same political party in charge. That party is so arrogant that we now have an MP who had never been to my county before she was selected. Her CV (resume) was very similar to Margaret Thatcher, so she was liked. It must have been a paper sift because she has achieved very little for us, although she now holds a Cabinet post.

The Nation State is a means of control.

Our democratic system is no better. Of recent years boundaries have been changed. The excuse was to bring them all to the same population size. Untrue. It was to give the ruling party a better chance of winning.

A Solution

To make a start why can’t we choose which government to follow.? Even in Europe it is not too difficult to acquire citizenship. Belgium is probably the easiest but other countries do very well.

Elsewhere Russia is the easiest with Peru coming second. As a precaution why not apply for an e-residency in Estonia. For just 199 Euros you can start an Estonian company. No need to live there, although it is very pleasant, especially in summer.

Scotland are looking like a good choice (it is a bit cold for an East Anglian). The Northern Irish problem could be solved if the Protestants moved back to Scotland, as that’s where most came from.

Wales could also become independent. That would save money, as Wales is encouraged by government, probably to prevent revolts. Since the coal industry was taken apart by Thatcher Wales has been given state-run jobs; such as vehicle licensing. It keeps their heads down at desks.

These suggestions are just a start. Our aim should be World Citizenship. That needs to be taken very slowly. Too many cushy sinecures will be at risk.

Remember this is just looking outside the box.

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Podcasts

Brief Future

Trevor Lockwood

I’ve made a decision. I shall abandon politics. Instead I will take a philosophical approach to life. Look forward to a perfect society. There’s much to discuss. Why do we have nation states? Alternatives to capitalism. Is monotheism preferable? Population reduction. War or peace. Equality in economics. Saving homo sapiens (the planet will survive – it is us that needs to worry).

There will be much more if I last that long.

It is now clear, after a lifetime of trying to influence events, that I have failed. That’s OK, as I have tried.

Instead it will be fruitful to look outside the box. To stay constrained means that I will always be reacting to the ideas and actions of others. That’s not helped my soul.

Let’s look at life another way.

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Podcasts

Friday 13th

Now we have FIVE years of Boris!

Will Holland take me as a refugee?

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Podcasts

Conflict

https://soundcloud.com/trevor-lockwood/sets/polemia

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Podcasts

Nearly There

The Future

It’s getting tiring. We’ve seen and heard politicians lying, and there’s an approach that when being interviewed just keep talking, and ignore interruptions. It’s annoying and frightening.

Now we will settle down and wait for the result. If Boris the Turk gets in we will face the same future as the USA.

What more needs to be said.