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Big Ben’s Ayrton Light to be switched off for the first time

A lamp at the top of the Big Ben tower, which is switched on in the evening whenever Parliament is sitting, will be switched off for the first time in more than 70 years, authorities announced on Saturday.

The Ayrton Light, located above the Great Bell, needs to be fully dismantled and restored. A temporary light will replace it, reports the BBC.

Installed in 1885, it was previously turned off only during both world wars.

The light is said to have been installed at the request of Queen Victoria, so that she could see from Buckingham Palace when members of either the Commons or the Lords were sitting after dark.

It is named after Acton Smee Ayrton, a Liberal politician who was the First Commissioner of Works between 1869 and 1873.

It is not yet known when the light will be switched off, or how long it will remain off.

The Great Bell will not be heard from midday on Monday. The House of Commons has said it will look again at the length of time it will be silenced after “concerns”.

Parliament said it had to protect workers carrying out the renovations. But Prime Minister Theresa May said “it can’t be right” that the bell will not chime regularly again for four years.

It will still sound for important events including New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday. Big Ben is actually the nickname given to the bell rather than the tower itself, but over the years it has come to describe the entire structure that looms over the northern end of the Palace of Westminster, the home of the British Parliament.

Last renovated more than 30 years ago, the tower is now in dire need of extensive repair. Officials at Parliament say this can’t happen while Big Ben is chiming because the noise would damage workers’ hearing.

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