Big Ben Marks 100 Years of Broadcasting New Year’s Eve ‘Bongs’

Big Ben

This year’s New Year’s Eve ‘bongs’ from Big Ben will mark 100 years since the iconic sounds were first broadcast to the nation, ringing in the start of a new year and signalling the beginning of a tradition recognised across the UK and around the world.

On New Year’s Eve 1923, BBC engineer AG Dryland climbed onto a roof opposite the Houses of Parliament with a microphone to record the strikes of Big Ben and the quarter bells. Since then, the sounds of ‘the nation’s timepiece’ have been broadcast every year.

The regular striking of Big Ben and the quarter bells was ceased in 2017 to allow for conservation works to progress. However, during this period, Big Ben continued to be heard on New Year’s Eve, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, as well as for the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II works – using a specially designed ‘temporary mechanism’ that could strike the bell. Even for most of the Second World War, the sound of the bells continued to be broadcast to listeners at home and abroad.

The bells returned to regular service after 4 days of tests on Remembrance Sunday 13th November 2022. The live sound of the bells resumed regular broadcast on the BBC on Monday 6th November 2023, and can be heard on BBC Radio 4 at 6pm and at midnight, as well as at 10pm on Sundays.

Michael McCann, Keeper of the Great Clock at UK Parliament, said: “Big Ben’s iconic role in starting the new year cannot be understated. Our dedicated team of clock mechanics take care of the Great Clock all year round, but will be hard at work on New Year’s Eve to make sure the sound of the bongs are heard in London and beyond.”

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, said: “The chimes of Big Ben have been part of the soundtrack to all our lives. The instantly recognisable, distinctive bongs have marked the beginning of the New Year, and the start of the two-minutes’ silence on Remembrance Sunday for decades.  

They are a signal, a reminder, a link to our past and the analogue era, when we needed the time to be told to us. 

So, I feel incredibly proud to be Speaker of the House of Commons when we are celebrating 100 years since Big Ben’s chimes were first broadcast to the nation.”

Robert Seatter, Head of BBC History, said: “In 1923, Big Ben’s chimes brought in a new era of time keeping for the nation and the wider world. A hundred years later, they have become a part of all our lives, ringing in the old and new across the UK and around the globe on the BBC.”

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