Big Ben cleaners: Time for some recognition?

August 21st, 2014 Category: Local Authority & Housing

Cleaners and cleaning companies usually adopt the role of 'unsung heroes' – sorting out the mess left by everybody else once they have gone home.

Unless you happen to stay late after school, after lectures have finished or at the end of work, you may never get to see them work their magic.

And to a great extent, that's how cleaners like it. After all, how can you expect to get the job done to the required standard if there are people coming in and out, creating more mess?

But every now and then, it is nice for cleaners to get a little moment in the limelight.

This was the case this week as the clock on Big Ben – one of London's most famous landmarks – was given its annual clean and polish.

The clock face was accessed by a specialist team of abseilers, suitably equipped with all the necessary cleaning equipment.

With the clock frozen at 12:00, they were free to go about this most important job without the fear of being struck by the minute or hour hand.

The job took almost a day to complete, such was the scale and complexity of this cleaning operation.

The abseilers were required to clean each of the four dials on Elizabeth Tower – remember, Big Ben is only a nickname – each one of which is 23 feet square.

On each face, there are 312 panes of glass, any one of which could be smashed if not approached with the utmost care.

The hour hand is nine feet long, and the minute hand stretches 14 feet. Even the numbers, which look fairly small from the ground, are two feet long.

Paul Harrison, one of the cleaners on Big Ben, said it is "one of the pinnacles for any abseiler to be cleaning such a famous structure".

"It's one of the most prestigious structures in the world… we're very proud to be working on it," he stated.

"As you can understand the white glass – the opal glass – has got to be cleaned very, very carefully because it's very, very thin."

Of course, not every cleaner wants to go about their job suspended hundreds of feet in the air, in front of passers-by and spectators down below.

But just because most prefer to keep their feet on the ground, it doesn't make their job any less important. Cleaning is a vital function, however high-profile the building.