Best on the Box highlight for October 3rd…
‘Big Ben’ (the affectionate name for the Queen Elizabeth II Tower, Big Ben is the bell) is in its fifth year of the biggest and most expensive restoration of its life. In this programme, architectural historian Anna Keay enjoys exclusive access to the clock tower and finds out what’s really going on behind the scaffolding.
Anna learns that the aim of this enormous restoration project is to return Big Ben to its original Gothic glory: the massive clock mechanism which was ticking almost continuously for 161 years has been removed and repaired off-site, 700 pieces of damaged stonework have been replaced with new Cadeby limestone and the dowdy black paintwork on the four great clock faces is transformed into the original, brightly coloured scheme.
And sitting on top of it all is the gloriously gilded spire and ornate cross and orb. Anna meets some of the country’s best craftspeople who have been toiling away to save Big Ben in the face of unprecedented challenges. Engineer Clare Hartley Marjoram is tasked with adding a modern feature to the tower – a brand new lift. Trevor Marrs of Shepley Engineers in Yorkshire is responsible for restoring over 3000 elements of damaged metalwork during the Covid-19 pandemic.
And glass artist John Reyntiens is forced to get inventive when faced with cutting giant 90-kilo sheets of glass for the Ayrton light, which sits at the top of the tower. This documentary shows British skill at its very best and celebrates the dedication of the country’s top craftspeople who have been painstakingly working to bring a British icon back to life.
Big Ben: Restoring the World’s Most Famous Clock, Channel 4, 7 pm