The famous clock, Big Ben, at the Houses of Parliament in London. File picture: Sang Tan


London - You could once get the job done with a bucket, a sponge and a bit of old rope.

But cleaning Big Ben’s Great Clock now comes with helmets, harnesses and a health and safety assessment.

Four experts abseiling down the Elizabeth Tower were secured in professional climbing gear and hard hats, and had all their equipment tightly fastened to utility belts.

As well as high-vis uniforms, the specialists wear ear defenders to protect their hearing from the bell’s deafening chimes.

It is a far cry from 1980 when the clock’s cleaners turned up in T-shirts and jeans.

Now the landmark’s regular makeover is a meticulously managed affair. Before cleaning could begin, two “height safety” specialists had to carry out initial checks.

The team has been given a working week for the task – one day for each dial and a contingency day in case bad weather prevents work on the 314ft tower.

Using chamois-leather cloths to gently buff the 312 opal glass panels on each 23ft-wide dial, they will remove dirt that has built up since its last clean in 2010, and then carry out a photographic survey to check for any damage.

The clock will still keep time, but hands on the face being washed will not move. - Daily Mail