I hate to be the one to break this appalling news, but it seems that one of Britain’s most recognizable landmarks, right up there with Stonehenge and Nelson’s column, might not be with us for very much longer.
If you’ve visited London recently, and taken a trip to the Palace of Westminster to have a look at the clock tower, more commonly known as Big Ben (which is the name of the massive bell inside it), you may have spotted that it has developed something of a tilt: 0.26 degrees to the north west, if we’re being precise.
The ground under which the clock tower stands has been shifting about, partly due to natural causes – it was build on a riverbank after all – and partly due to the London Underground tunnels far below, and this has caused the tower’s peak to lean over some 18 inches from where it should be, which has, in turn created cracks in the walls inside the House of Commons.
Now engineers are saying that the rate of movement has increased in recent years, from barely anything before 2002, to a rate of 0.04 of a degree every year since 2003. This means, and I hope you’re sitting down for this, that if nothing is done to stop it, Big Ben will smash into Portcullis House, in which many Members of Parliament have their offices, in as little as FIVE THOUSAND YEARS.
Prof John Burland, of Imperial College London, told the Mirror: “I have heard tourists saying, ‘I don’t think it is really vertical’. They are quite right. The tilt is now just about visible. If it started greater acceleration we would have to do something in a few years.”
I know. We’re going to have to evacuate. We’ll just do it really, really slowly.