Big Ben chimes for the first time in seven weeks
London was reacquainted on Monday with one of its iconic sounds when Big Ben finally chimed for the first time in seven weeks. After almost two months of maintenance work, London's most famous landmark was once again fully functional - to the delight of millions of tourists and residents alike.
Since August 11, an alternate electric system has been keeping the Great Clock at Westminster ticking, while Big Ben and the quarter bells have remained quiet to allow experts to carry out necessary repairs. The work has included the replacement of the bearings on the strike train, which operates the hour bell (known as Big Ben), and the going train, which controls the clock itself. On Saturday night, a successful re-synchronisation of all the bells, including Big Ben, took place, with them chiming through each of their sequences. The Great Clock could finally be fully restarted Monday after its hands and weights were also reconnected. Michael McCann, Keeper of the Great Clock, said: "We resynchronised the bells at the weekend. The first strike of the bell has to be accurate to within a second. It took us about three hours to do it all on Saturday." Engineers will monitor the restored clock mechanism intently to ensure it is keeping the right time. The maintenance means that the Great Clock should be in pristine condition for its 150th anniversary in 2009. Big Ben is the nickname for what is officially called the Great Clock, which is found atop St Stephen's Tower and which, rising above the Thames at Westminster, makes up one of London's most memorable skylines. Strictly speaking Big Ben, named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the Commissioner of Works when the bell was installed in 1859, refers only to the 13.5-tonne bell that chimes the hours, although it has become synonymous with the whole tower itself. Previous silencings of the clock have occurred due to freak accidents caused by anything from weather to workmen, and breakages to birds. Also over the weekend, a scale model of Big Ben made entirely of British wheat was unveiled as part of an exhibition entitled "Land of Wheat and Glory". All eight models of renowned regional landmarks were on show in Leicester Square on Sunday. Some of the Big Ben facts:ÃÂ¢€Ã‚Â¢ At the base of each clock face in gilt letters is the Latin inscription: "DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM" - 'O Lord, keep safe our queen Victoria the First'. ÃÂ¢€Ã‚Â¢ Big Ben still holds the title of the "world's largest four-faced chiming clock." ÃÂ¢€Ã‚Â¢ The idiom of putting a penny on, with the meaning of slowing down, sprang from the method of fine-tuning the clock's pendulum. Adding or subtracting old penny coins from a pile on the pendulum has the effect of minutely altering the rate at which the pendulum swings. A single penny will change the clock's speed by 2/5th of one second per day. ÃÂ¢€Ã‚Â¢ On New Year's Eve 1962, due to heavy snow, Big Ben chimed in the New Year 10 minutes late. ÃÂ¢€Ã‚Â¢ The clock had its first and only major breakdown in 1976. The chiming mechanism broke due to metal fatigue. During this time BBC Radio 4 had to make do with the pips