Big Ben

pictures, photos, facts and information on Big Ben (London)


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Big Ben is a colloquial name of what is officially the Clock Tower. Big Ben is actually the main bell in the tower. This turret clock at the northeastern end of the Houses of Parliament belongs to the most famous landmarks in London. It has also been known as St Stephen’s Tower and The Tower of Big Ben.

After the destruction of the Palace of Westminster by fire on 16 October 1834, Charles Barry designed a new one. The Victorian Gothic Clock Tower was a part of this new design. The tower was completed in 1858, although the clock mechanism had been finished four years earlier.

The Tower of Big Ben is 96.3 meters (316 feet) high. The structure of the tower itself is 61 metres (250 feet) tall, the rest is a framed spire. The tower is made of brickwork with stone cladding; material used for the spire was cast iron. There are four clock faces on each side of the tower. They are located 55 metres (180 feet) above ground level. In the past, the four clock faces were the largest in the world, and it still is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. The hour hand is 2.7 metres (9 feet) and the minute hand is 4.3 metres (14 feet) long. The diameter of the clock is 7 metres (21 feet).

Augustus Pugin became the architect of the clock’s and dial’s design. 576 pieces of opal glass are set in an iron framework. Some of the pieces are removable, in order to inspect the hands. The surrounds of the dials are gilded. There is an inscription in gilt letters in Latin meaning: “O Lord, keep safe our queen Victoria I”. The clock started to work on 8 September 1859. Big Ben is very reliable clock. It was created by horologist Edmund Beckett Denison, later Lord Grimthorpe and the mechanism of the clock was the work of the clockmaker Edward John Dent.

As it has been already mentioned, Big Ben refers to the main bell. There are few legends why it is called by this name, and the most probable one claims, that it is because of its commissioner Sir Benjamin Hall. The original Great Bell was cast on 10 April, 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees by Warner’s of Cripplegate and it was 16 tons heavy. By the time the tower was finished the bell had to be recast and now it weights 13.76 tons. Besides Big Ben there are quarter-hour bells, the ring of bells that ring the familiar changes.
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