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Updated: October 10, 2011 01:14 IST

Big Ben tower ‘leaning’

Hasan Suroor
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A file photo of the Big Ben in London. It has been reported that, the historic clock tower at the Palace of Westminster which houses the British Parliament, has developed a tilt and it is “getting worse every year”.
AP A file photo of the Big Ben in London. It has been reported that, the historic clock tower at the Palace of Westminster which houses the British Parliament, has developed a tilt and it is “getting worse every year”.

It has developed a tilt and is getting worse every year

It wouldn't happen in our lifetime. But possibly one day — in very distant future — London could end up having its very own “leaning” tower to rival the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Take it however you will, the “progress” is so slow that it could take up to 4,000 years for it to pose a serious competition to the quirky Italian tourist attraction.

It has been reported that London's famous Big Ben, the historic clock tower at the Palace of Westminster, which houses British Parliament, has developed a tilt and it is “getting worse every year” having already moved almost one-and-a-half-feet “off the perpendicular” so that with a little effort it is now visible to the naked eye.

“You can see it if you stand on Parliament Square and look east, towards the river. I have heard tourists there taking photographs saying ‘I don't think it is quite vertical' – and they are quite right,'' John Burland, an expert from Imperial College who has worked on the Big Ben tower, told The Sunday Telegraph.

No cause for panic

The newspaper, while predicting that the tower could “topple over'' one day, assured Westminster denizens that there was no cause for immediate alarm because “at its current speed it would take some 4,000 years to reach the angle of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and even longer to hit tipping-point.”

Quoting an official survey report, it said the tilt was blamed on “decades of building work” around the foot of the 150-year-old structure ranging from a sewer built in the 1860s to laying of London Underground train lines and construction of an underground car park for MPs. The biggest tilt happened between 2002-2003 when a “mystery event” caused the tower to lurch “with the clock face moving up to an eighth of an inch away from the vertical.” And what could have been that “mystery event”? The Telegraph reckoned it might have been the “heated debates on the invasion of Iraq” staged in the two Houses of Parliament during this period.

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