For more than 150 years, Big Ben has rung out reassuringly during times of war and peace. Not even Nazi bombs could silence the famous symbol of Britishness. But having marked the hour with almost unbroken service since 1859, the Great Bell’s bongs will soon cease for four years – because of health and safety. Big Ben is to be silenced amid fears workers involved in a restoration project could have their hearing damaged. Authorities say it would be ‘unacceptable’ to expose workers on scaffolding surrounding the bell tower to the noise of its chimes – and also ‘unacceptable’ for them to wear ear defenders. They say they owe the workers ‘a duty of care’ on health and safety grounds, but the decision triggered an outcry last night.