Abseilers clock up unusual job
Published 12/08/2010 | 16:07
Three men have clocked in for an usual job - abseiling down Parliament's St Stephen's Tower to check for damage to the face of the Great Clock.
Tourists looked on in amazement as two specialist abseilers descended to one of the four clock faces, dangling 315ft (96m) in the air.
The third man, specialist heritage glazer Tony McGilbert, was then helped down to evaluate the necessary repairs.
The faces are set in a cast iron frame, 23ft (7m) in diameter, and there are a total of 312 pieces of opal glass.
But over time "capping pieces" which seal the gaps where the iron is bolted together can fall off, allowing water to get in and cause damage. And unfortunate fast-flying birds can also damage the glass.
Michael McCann, keeper of the Great Clock, said: "It might look risky but it's actually a very quick, convenient and safe way of doing it. A scaffold would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and take months."
All the men wore ear defenders as they had to bear the deafening sound of Big Ben's bongs as they worked. Their equipment was attached to them to ensure it could not fall to the ground.
The work was being carried out by height safety and rescue specialists Taskmasters, whose staff regularly scale tall buildings to carry out work and repairs.
Spokeswoman Terri Cliffe-Harrison said: "We have worked on a lot of historic buildings such as the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and Bank of England.
"It's a real privilege to be working on such another famous landmark, although that makes it all the more daunting a prospect."