The final piece of the 98 metre high scaffolding was installed by contractor Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd and it was celebrated with a ceremony at the top of the Elizabeth Tower.
“The steel structure encasing the Elizabeth Tower consists of nearly 24,000 elements, weighs 800 tonnes and has taken just over a year to complete,” said Ian Ailles, director general of the House of Commons. “Despite a complex programme and challenging weather conditions earlier this year, we are on schedule, to the credit of all those working on this much-loved landmark and we look forward to welcoming visitors back to the Tower.”
The Grade II-listed structure is in its second year of conservation work, which includes conserving the stonework and cast-iron roof, as well as dismantling the Great Clock piece by piece with each cog examined and restored. The four clock dials will be carefully cleaned, the glass will be replaced and the hands conserved.
Other work that will be carried out at the Elizabeth Tower include: conserving significant elements of the Tower, as designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin; repairing and redecorating the interior, renewing the building services and making improvements to health and safety and fire protection systems; and improving energy efficiency to make the Tower more environmentally friendly.
“This is the most significant programme of works in Big Ben’s 159-year history and this week’s topping out ceremony celebrated it being one step closer to completion. The Elizabeth Tower is an international symbol of democracy and it is vital to preserve it for future generations,” said Tom Brake MP, Spokesman for the House of Commons Commission.
The ceremony represents the latest development in the conservation of the Elizabeth Tower. Earlier this year, the Ayrton Light was removed from the tower to carry out essential repairs, while the hands of the clock face were also removed to conduct vital repairs.