London’s Big Ben Celebrates Century of New Year’s Eve Broadcasts
London’s iconic Big Ben is celebrating a century of broadcasting its famous New Year’s Eve “bongs” across the world. Since 1923, when a BBC engineer first recorded the strikes from a rooftop opposite the British parliament, live transmission of the unmistakable sound has become an annual tradition.
Despite a recent restoration program that silenced the bongs, exceptions were made for significant events such as Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday, Britain’s departure from the European Union, and Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral.
Clock mechanic Andrew Strangeway and his team ensure that the clock is within fractions of a second of being correct, using old pennies to adjust its timing mechanism. As the clock rings in the New Year, Strangeway will be at the top of the Elizabeth Tower, marking a special moment for both him and the nation.
London’s Big Ben Celebrates Century of New Year’s Eve Broadcasts
Introduction: The significance of Big Ben’s New Year’s Eve broadcasts
London’s iconic Big Ben is set to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its New Year’s Eve broadcasts ringing in the start of the new year. Since 1923, when BBC engineer A.G. Dryland climbed onto a roof across from the British parliament to record the strikes, the live transmission of Big Ben’s bongs has become an annual tradition.
The unmistakable sound of the “nation’s timepiece” has long occupied a special place in national life, marking important occasions and serving as a symbol of unity and tradition.
A History of Live Transmission
Recording the strikes of Big Ben’s bells has been a defining moment in London’s history since the early 20th century. In 1923, BBC engineer A.G. Dryland climbed onto a roof opposite the British parliament to capture the chimes of Big Ben, marking the beginning of live transmission.
This momentous occasion became an annual tradition, with the strikes being broadcast twice daily at 6 pm and midnight. The live transmission of Big Ben’s bongs has become ingrained in the fabric of British culture, symbolizing the passing of time and the start of a new year.
The Importance of Big Ben’s Bongs
Big Ben’s bongs hold great significance for the people of London and beyond. The chimes of Big Ben can be heard on BBC radio and on commercial channel ITV at specific times throughout the day. These bongs serve as a reminder of time, punctuating the day and bringing a sense of rhythm to daily life.
The bongs also hold symbolic value, marking important occasions such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday when the nation remembers its war dead. Additionally, the bongs have been used to commemorate significant events like Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2021 and the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022.
Exceptional Broadcasts during Restoration
During the extensive five-year restoration programme of Big Ben, the broadcasts of the bongs continued for important occasions such as New Year’s Eve, Armistice Day, and Remembrance Sunday. Despite the silencing of the bells for the majority of the restoration, exceptions were made for these significant events.
The continued broadcasts highlighted the importance of Big Ben in national events and ceremonies, showcasing its role as a symbol of national unity and tradition. The resumption of normal service in November marked a moment of celebration and relief for the people of London and beyond.
Other Significant Occasions Marked by Big Ben
In addition to the annual New Year’s Eve broadcasts, Big Ben has played a prominent role in marking other significant occasions. One notable event was Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2021.
The chimes of Big Ben resounded throughout London, symbolizing this historic moment of national significance. Another momentous occasion was the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022. Big Ben tolled solemnly, paying tribute to the long and illustrious reign of the beloved queen. These occasions highlight the vital role that Big Ben plays in commemorating important milestones in the nation’s history.
The Role of Clock Mechanic Andrew Strangeway
Behind the scenes, clock mechanic Andrew Strangeway plays a crucial role in ensuring the accuracy of Big Ben’s timekeeping. As a member of the in-house timekeeping team, Strangeway is responsible for the maintenance and precision of the clock.
Located at the top of the 96-meter Elizabeth Tower, Strangeway and his team perform last-minute checks to ensure that the clock will be “within fractions of a second of being correct.” Their dedication to maintaining the clock’s precision ensures that the broadcasts of the bongs are delivered with accuracy and reliability.
Ensuring Accuracy: Last-Minute Checks
On New Year’s Eve, the importance of accuracy is paramount for the clock mechanic and his team. While the chances of mishaps are minimal, Strangeway recounts a disaster that took place during the 1970s when the clock stopped due to metal fatigue.
To avoid such incidents, the team goes to great lengths to ensure that the clock goes off and is on time. With a combination of meticulous preparations and precision engineering, they minimize the chances of any serious malfunctions. The last-minute checks carried out by the team guarantee that the broadcasts of Big Ben’s bongs are a moment of celebration rather than an occasion of concern.
The Renaming of the Tower
In 2012, the Clock Tower, housing Big Ben, was renamed the Elizabeth Tower to honor the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The decision to change the name was a testament to the enduring legacy of the late queen and her contribution to the nation.
The Elizabeth Tower stands not only as a symbol of timekeeping but also as a tribute to the monarchy and the stability it represents. The renaming of the tower serves as a reminder of the ongoing connection between Big Ben and the royal family, further adding to its significance as a national icon.
The Method of Adjusting the Clock’s Timing Mechanism
While modern technology has revolutionized timekeeping, the method of adjusting Big Ben’s timing mechanism remains grounded in tradition. The clock’s precision is calibrated using GPS technology provided by Britain’s National Physical Laboratory.
However, the process of adjusting the clock’s timing mechanism itself relies on a time-honored technique. To make or lose a second, old pennies are added or removed from weights attached to two giant coiled springs. This timeless method ensures that Big Ben remains not only accurate but also firmly rooted in history.
The Excitement of Being Close to the Bells
For clock mechanic Andrew Strangeway, being in proximity to the bells during the New Year’s Eve broadcast is an exhilarating experience. Amidst the excitement and anticipation of the start of the New Year, Strangeway finds himself in a unique position of being right next to the bells.
This moment becomes especially poignant as everyone’s gaze turns towards the clock, waiting for the symbolic moment that marks the beginning of a new chapter. Strangeway’s dedication to his role and his connection to Big Ben exemplifies the passion and pride associated with this iconic landmark.
In conclusion, the century of New Year’s Eve broadcasts from London’s Big Ben is a testament to the enduring significance of this iconic landmark. From its humble beginnings to becoming an internationally recognized symbol, Big Ben’s bongs have become ingrained in the fabric of British culture.
As the nation gathers to celebrate the start of a new year, the bongs of Big Ben serve as a reminder of unity, tradition, and the passage of time. With each strike of its bells, Big Ben continues to mark history and bring people together in celebration.