Great fire monument to reopen

One of the most distinctive and historic landmarks in the UK is to reopen to visitors early next month after a £4.5 million improvement programme.

The 202ft-high Monument - built to mark the 1666 Great Fire of London - will boast a new viewing "cage" offering good views over the capital.

The stonework of the ancient tower has been cleaned and repaired and the golden orb on top of the structure has been re-gilded by hand.

For people who do not want to climb the 311 stairs to the top, live views will be relayed from the viewing gallery to visitors on the ground.

Created by Sir Christopher Wren and Dr Robert Hooke, the Monument is the tallest free-standing stone column in the world.

It is positioned close to the spot in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire is believed to have started in 1666.

Repairs to the Monument, which receives more than 100,000 visitors a year, have been carried out approximately every 100 years, with work last undertaken in 1888.