Big Ben to be silent for Baroness Thatcher's funeral

Speaker John Bercow announces the move

The chimes of Big Ben will be silenced for the duration of Baroness Thatcher's funeral, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has announced.

He told MPs this would be "an appropriate means of indicating our sentiments" during the occasion.

There was a "profound dignity through silence," Mr Bercow added.

The silence will last throughout events on Wednesday, covering the procession from Westminster and the ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral.

The chiming of Big Ben, the name often used to describe the Great Bell, the Great Clock and the Elizabeth Tower - clock tower - in the Palace of Westminster, is one of London's most famous sounds.

'Deep respect'

It has not been silenced as a mark of respect since the funeral of former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, although it was out of action for repairs for a period during the 1970s.

In a statement to the Commons, Mr Bercow said he had received "direct and indirect representations" over the best way for Parliament to mark the funeral of Lady Thatcher, who died last week aged 87.

Big Ben facts

  • The Great Bell, better known as Big Ben, is 2.2m tall, has a diameter of 2.7m and weighs 13.7 tonnes
  • The hammer which strikes the bell weighs 200kg
  • When struck it chimes the musical note E
  • It was cast in the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and installed on 10 April, 1858. It took 18 hours to lift it into the clock tower's belfry
  • The chimes of Big Ben were first recorded and broadcast by BBC engineer AG Dryland on New Year's Eve 1923
  • It was out of action from 09:45 GMT until midnight on the day of Churchill's funeral

He added: "I've considered all of these, but I concluded that the most appropriate means of indicating our sentiments would be for the chimes of Big Ben and the chimes of the Great Clock to be silenced for the duration of the funeral proceedings."

Mr Bercow also said: "I believe there can be a profound dignity and deep respect expressed through silence."

Responding for the government, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said it was a "very dignified and respectful gesture on behalf of Parliament".

"As you know, Lady Thatcher held Parliament in very great reverence in her time both in this House and in the Lords," he said."

Lady Thatcher's children, Sir Mark and Carol Thatcher, said they appreciated the "great honour".

The former prime minister has been accorded a ceremonial funeral with military honours, one step down from a state funeral.

A military rehearsal of the procession took place in central London during the early hours of Monday morning.

On Wednesday, Lady Thatcher's coffin will travel by hearse from the Palace of Westminster to the Church of St Clement Danes - the Central Church of the RAF - on the Strand.

It will then be transferred to the gun carriage and taken in procession to St Paul's Cathedral.

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Westminster

  • The funeral procession will set out from the Palace of Westminster with Baroness Thatcher's body carried in a hearse for the first part of the journey. The coffin will be trasferred to a gun carriage at the church of St Clement Danes on the Strand.

  • Baroness Thatcher's body will lie overnight in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft which is found beneath St Stephen's Hall at the Palace of Westminster.

St Clement Danes

St Clement Danes

At the RAF Chapel at the church of St Clement Danes on the Strand, Baroness Thatcher's coffin will be borne in procession to St Paul's Cathedral on a gun carriage drawn by six horses of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery.

St Paul's Cathedral

  • There will be a Guard of Honour outside St Paul's as the coffin is transferred into the Cathedral by service personnel from regiments and ships closely associated with the Falklands campaign.

  • The ceremony in St Paul's Cathedral will be attended by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, family and friends of Baroness Thatcher, members of her cabinets and dignitaries from around the world.

Downing Street

  • The funeral passes Downing Street, which is found on the left of the route along Whitehall.

  • Baroness Thatcher was resident at Number 10 for more than ten years following her General Election victory in 1979.

Ceremonial procession

Once the procession leaves St Clement Danes, the route to St Paul's along Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill will be lined by more than 700 armed forces personnel from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, F Company Scots Guards, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, and the Royal Air Force.

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