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St George’s Cross to return to Big Ben following £61m renovation work

The Elizabeth Tower’s current paint scheme is thought to date from the 1930s (Victoria Jones/PA) Photo: PA Archive/PA Images

Big Ben is to return to its original Victorian colour scheme, which includes the Cross of St George and blue numbers on the clock face, parliamentary authorities have revealed.

An artist’s impression showing six shields bearing the red and white English national flag above each dial was revealed by the House of Commons Commission on Wednesday.

The blackened dials of the famous clock will also revert to Prussian blue numbers with gold frames filled with white glass as part of the £61 million renovation of the Elizabeth Tower.

Other areas of black paint around the outside will be gilded.

The plan follows modern analysis of the layers of paint that have built up on the tower over the decades.

How the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben will look after the renovation work Credit: UK Parliament/PA

It is believed that the current colour scheme was adopted in the early 20th century after the Victorian building, designed by Charles Barry, had been blackened by decades of heavy air pollution in London.

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, spokesman for the Commission, said: “The new colour scheme, it is not going to be dramatically different to what people see now. However it is restoring it back to what Charles Barry had in mind.

“Something that people will notice is a contrast between the clock face and the clock hands and the surrounding tower.”

The Elizabeth Tower is being renovated at a cost of £61m Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Regarding the St George’s Cross, he said: “It represents what is best about England and the English nature.

“Obviously the Scots, the Welsh and Northern Irish are represented on the tower with the different rosettes that are there representing those countries.

“So I’m sure they won’t object to that.”

Shields bearing a rose, leek, shamrock and thistle can be found above the clock on the tower, representing the four home nations.

Adam Watrobski, Parliament’s principal architect, said the new scheme would be the “crowning glory” of the tower restoration and “serve to reinforce the symbolism of the tower in its international representation of the United Kingdom”.

He added: “As part of the major repair and conservation of the Elizabeth Tower, we have carried out extensive research into the original decorative scheme for the clock faces and the adjacent areas.

“Using historic paint analysis and references, including Barry’s original design watercolour, contemporary illustrations and archival photographs, we have recreated the original colour scheme.”

However Scottish National Party MP Pete Wishart said: “This is a welcome boost for Scottish independence as Westminster prepares to become an England-only parliament.

“People will, however, be forgiven for thinking that transition began long ago – as Scotland continues to be sidelined and ignored on the biggest issues facing our country.”