Big Ben is one of the United Kingdom’s most iconic landmarks, and has for almost two centuries towered over Westminster’s busy streets to the awe of Londoners and tourists alike.
Big Ben history
Though the name ‘Big Ben’ is often attributed to the entire clock tower attached to the Houses of Parliament, it is actually the nickname of its largest bell – also known as the Great Bell. The tower itself is named Elizabeth Tower and, along with its collection of bells and four vast clock faces, was constructed between 1843 and 1859 in the neo-Gothic style.
When it was unveiled, it was the largest and most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world, and on each of its sides is represented one of the four nations of the United Kingdom – a rose for England, thistle for Scotland, shamrock for Northern Ireland, and leek for Wales.
While it is unclear exactly where the name Big Ben originated, it is thought to have been named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the man in charge of commissioning the structure. Another popular, although less likely, theory is that it was named after Ben Caunt, a champion heavyweight boxer of the mid-19th century who also went by the nickname.
Big Ben today
Today Big Ben is one of the most recognisable symbols of London in the world, with the catchy nickname now encompassing the clock tower as a whole. Thousands of visitors flock to Westminster to view its stunning design and vast proportions, widely considered a marvel of Victorian architecture.
Tours inside the tower itself are available to citizens of the UK, who are required to contact their local MP in order to get tickets and must arrive on a scheduled day. Inside the tower, 334 stone steps may be climbed to the top from which stunning views of the city can be observed, as well as the famous bell itself!
For foreign visitors, the adjoining Houses of Parliament may be explored, which provide a fascinating look into the heart of Britain’s government, while the surrounding area also features of host of London’s most interesting sites – Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, the Cenotaph and 10 Downing Street to name a few.
Getting to Big Ben
Big Ben is located in Westminster in Central London. The nearest Underground station is Westminster, a 4-minute walk away, while a number of buses stop at Parliament Square on Victoria Street, directly opposite. The nearest train station is Waterloo, a 12-minute walk away.
London's Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, commonly called Big Ben, are among London's most iconic landmarks and must-see London attractions. Technically, Big Ben is the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons (13,760 kg). The clock tower looks spectacular at night when the four clock faces are illuminated.
Although not as historical a London landmark as the Tower of London or London Bridge, the tower with its Great Bell has become all bit synonymous not only with the City of London but also with the Houses of Parliament and the democratic institutions accommodated there. Buildings and monuments often come to represent the spirit of the cities which they symbolize. Big Ben perhaps represents the heart beat of the Mother of Parliaments, which beats during peace and war constantly, boldly and with precision, just as the nation governed from beneath its tower rises to whatever challenge confronts it with steady and courageous hands.
When was Big Ben built? The history of London’s biggest icon
Big Ben has been telling the time for Londoners since the mid 19th century and is now undergoing essential maintenance that has meant Big Ben’s bongs have fallen silent. Works include repairing the clock, as well as the fabric of the tower, and while the whole project is expected to take four years, the bongs will still sound as special events. So as work gets underway to restore the much-loved landmark, we thought it was time to ask: when was Big Ben built?
The origins of London’s Big Ben
Big Ben – the name given to the great bell rather than the actual clock – was installed in the Palace of Westminster clock tower in 1859. Since then it has become Britain’s most famous bell.
Its iconic chimes were first recorded by the BBC on New Year’s Eve in 1923 and are now recorded live by the BBC twice a day, every day, at 6pm and midnight.
And the clock itself, with its four, huge cast iron dials is equally famous. Dominating the Westminster skyline and the Houses of Parliament, it’s one of London’s most recognisable monuments. However, its journey to national treasure status has not been entirely easy.
Do you know when Big Ben was built? Credit: Alamy
Architect Charles Barry’s original designs to replace the old Palace of Westminster, after the catastrophic fire of 1834, didn’t even include a clock tower. The design for the current tower, known since 2012 as the Elizabeth Tower in honour of HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, was only added a couple of years later, with the help of fellow architect Augustus Pugin.
Once Barry had designed a clock tower he was faced with the challenge of finding
a clockmaker capable of making a big enough clock to go inside his elegant new creation. The problem was compounded as one of the specifications for the new clock was that ‘it should be so accurate that the first strike of each hour shall be accurate to within one second’. This was considered impossible and it was only after a seven-year delay that an amateur clockmaker, Edmund Beckett Denison, came up with a design. His clock was finished in 1854 at a cost of £2,500.
Biggest bell of its time
As well as a functioning clock the new tower also needed a series of bells. These included four small bells to chime the quarter hours and a big bell to sound the hour each bell makes a different note and together they sound the famous Westminster Chimes, but making and hanging the main bell was to prove as challenging as making the clock.
The original bell weighed a staggering 16 tonnes and was cast by Warners of Norton. It was hung in New Palace Yard temporarily but when tested in October 1857 an alarming 1.2m crack appeared. Everyone blamed everyone else for this, with the foundry accusing Denison of insisting on a hammer too big for the bell.
The Whitechapel Foundry
Eventually the bell was broken up and a lighter bell recast by the Whitechapel Foundry. It was soon known affectionately as Big Ben, possibly getting its name from Sir Benjamin Hall, First Commissioner for Works at the time.
The next task facing Denison was installing the bell. Problems arose when it was discovered that the bell was too large to be winched up the tower as it was wider than it was tall.
Luckily someone had the bright idea of turning it on its side, and finally, on 11 July 1859 Big Ben chimed the hour for the first time. However, the problems were not over: within three months this second bell also cracked.
Given that the clock had been installed below the belfry and the cracked bell couldn’t be removed without dismantling the entire clock, it seemed like an impasse had been reached. It wasn’t until four years later that Sir George Airy, the Astronomer Royal, came up
with a solution: the bell was rotated by a quarter turn (so the hammer would strike a different spot) and the original hammer was replaced by a lighter version.
Big Ben – what do the essential works entail?
The current conservation programme will ensure that the bell continues to ring as reliably in the future. The clock hasn’t been overhauled for 30 years, although the face is cleaned by a hardy team of abseilers every few years, and the hands, mechanism and pendulum all need immediate attention.
There are also cracks in the Tower masonry, and problems caused by erosion, rusting metalwork and water damage. The entire tower will be scaffolded, but one clock face will be visible at all times and it is hoped the bells will still sound for important events. The works will take up to three years to complete, but as Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock, says, “This project will enable us to give one of Britain’s most famous landmarks all the TLC it deserves.”
Big Ben History
Big Ben history begins with the destruction of the old Palace of Westminster. In 1834, the old palace caught fire, and little was left behind after the embers burned out. Due to the extensive damage, it was decided that a new palace be built, and this palace was to feature a clock tower. Renowned English architect Sir Charles Barry was chosen to head the project, and together with the help of Augustus Pugin, he laid down the framework for what would become England&rsquos most recognizable architectural landmark.
Some of the most popular questions about the structure include how tall is Big Ben and when was Big Ben built? The famous tower on the banks of the River Thames measures 316 feet in height. The faces of the four clocks are an impressive 23 square feet in size, and as for the Great Bell, it stands seven-and-a-half feet tall. As for when Big Ben was built, work on the new Palace of Westminster began with the laying of the foundation stone in 1840. The tower itself was completed in 1858, as is true of the Great Bell that is housed inside. Save for a few breakdowns and outages, it has been keeping time for more than 150 years.
The name "Big Ben" officially refers to the largest bell in the Palace of Westminster&rsquos St. Stephens Tower. Over time, however, the name has come to encompass the entire clock tower. Interesting to point out is the fact that historians aren&rsquot quite sure how the Big Ben appellation originally came into being. Two possibilities remain the most credible. Either the large bell, or the Great Bell, as it is also commonly labeled, was named after the English heavyweight boxing champion of the day, Benjamin Caunt, or after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the Great Bell itself.
There&rsquos more to Big Ben history than how it got its name. Several notable figures of the day contributed to the overall project, and they included George Biddell Airy. Airy served as the Astronomer Royal of the UK between the years of 1835 and 1881. He was entrusted with drafting the specification of Big Ben&rsquos famous four-sided clock. Aiding him was an amateur horologist by the name of Edmund Beckett Denison. Denison, who was also a lawyer and an architect, actually designed the mechanism for the tower&rsquos clock. This mechanism helped the timepiece achieve a level of accuracy that many experts of the day thought was unattainable for such a large clock.
The first Great Bell that was constructed for the Big Ben clock tower weighed sixteen tons. John Warner & Sons at Stockton-on-Tees was the company that was responsible for making the bell, and they completed the task on August 6, 1856. Since the tower that was supposed to house the Great Bell wasn&rsquot yet finished, it was set up in the Westminster Palace Yard. The moving of the bell to this site generated a lot of attention. In fact, crowds cheered the procession on as it made its way to the yard. Along the way, this procession crossed both the London Bridge and Westminster Bridge.
While it was being tested in the Palace Yard at Westminster, the original Big Ben bell cracked. Unable to be repaired, it had to be replaced instead. The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which is still based in London to this day, was called upon to cast the new bell. It was finished in 1858, and the first time that it rang with the other Great Clock of Westminster bells was on May 31, 1859. Unfortunately, after only two months of service, the new Big Ben bell cracked. The crack wasn&rsquot as severe as the crack in the original bell, however, and after some repairs, the new clock was re-established in the tower.
There are plenty of other interesting facts about Big Ben. When it was cast, for example, it was the biggest bell in all the British Isles. The nearly seventeen-ton bell in St. Paul&rsquos Cathedral overtook that honor in 1881, however. Also interesting to note is the fact that the crack in the bell results in a less-than-perfect tone, and coins are actually used to regulate the pendulum as needed. This pendulum measures thirteen feet in length and weighs nearly 700 pounds.
History Of The Big Ben
Big Ben is the nickname for the iconic tower which is located in the north end of London’s House of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster which sits on the banks of the River Thames. Although originally this massive structure’s official name was the Clock Tower, it was renamed the Elizabethan Tower in 2012 in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.
Big Ben’s origins can be traced back to the disastrous fire of October 16, 1834, which destroyed the original Palace of Westminster. Ten years later a clock and tower were included as part of plans devised by chief architect Charles Barry for the construction of the new Houses of Parliament. Barry turned to Augustus Pugin to design the distinctive clock tower. Pugin specialized in designing structures in the Gothic Revival architectural tradition. Unfortunately for Pugin, who was known for his work on English buildings such as Scarisbrick Hall located in the northeastern English county of Lancashire, Big Ben marked the end of his career as he went insane and subsequently died in 1852 at the age of 40.
When was Big Ben built?
The official name for Big Ben is Elizabeth Tower, which was raised as part of Charles Barry’s design for a new palace following a large fire that destroyed the majority of the old Palace of Westminster in 1834. The new structure was built by Barry in a neo-gothic style and while he was the chief architect for the palace, he turned to Augustus Pugin for help designing the clock tower. The tower was Pugin’s final design before he eventually descended into madness and death. In April 1858 the bells of the clock were replaced and in July 1859, the chimes rang for the first time. In the September of 1859, the great bell cracked and was subsequently taken out of commission.
Fancy visiting some of the other iconic landmarks in London? Why not take a tour then head back to one of our hotels near Earl’s Court tube station? Your room offers the perfect location for either relaxing or getting ready for a night on the town.
Big Ben clock history and purpose
Big Ben clock history and purpose
The “King of Clocks”
When fire destroyed the Palace of Westminster in 1834, Britain’s politicians held a competition. Who would submit the best design for a new Parliament building? The winning entry, by Sir Charles Barry, was an ornate, Gothic-style palace that included an imposing four-sided clock tower. The Office of Works commissioned “a King of Clocks, the biggest the world has ever seen.”
This clock is one of London’s famous landmarks, and its distinctive chimes are recognized worldwide. Big Ben is its name—although that name originally referred only to its largest bell. This world-famous clock is a marvel of engineering.
A Daunting Task
Work on the 316-foot [96 m] clock tower began in 1843. Three years later the search was on for a craftsman who could build a clock so accurate that it would not vary by more than a second each hour. The task was daunting. In a high open tower, the clock’s hands would be exposed to wind, snow, and ice—as well as alighting pigeons! Such disturbances would affect the clock’s pendulum, whose regular beat was vital to precise timekeeping. While experts debated how to solve the problems, horologist Edmund Beckett Denison presented an acceptable design, and a leading clockmaker was given the task of building the clock.
After two years the clock was ready, but it languished in the clockmaker’s workshop for five more years while work on the tower was being completed. During that time, Denison invented a device that protected the pendulum from outside interference, ensuring the clock’s accuracy.
Big Ben Is Born
With the clock mechanism ready, the next step was to make the bells. A foundry in northeast England cast the hour bell. It was much larger than anticipated and weighed more than 16 tons! The bell was so heavy that it damaged the deck of the ship that was to carry it to London. In time, the ship made the journey. Once on land, the bell was eventually transported in a specially made carriage that was pulled by 16 white horses. Then it was hung on a frame in front of Parliament, where it could be tested.
Many large bells have names, and this enormous bell was dubbed Big Ben. Why? No one is sure. Some say that the bell may have been named after Sir Benjamin Hall, a large man who worked for Parliament. Others suggest that the bell took its name from Benjamin Caunt, a well-known heavyweight boxer of the time. Whatever its origin, Big Ben—no longer the name of just the hour bell—now commonly refers to the entire clock and tower.
Disaster Strikes Twice
Big Ben’s first hammer seemed to be too light, so a huge 1,500-pound [660 kg] hammer replaced it. After months of testing, however, disaster struck. The bell cracked and could not be repaired. Big Ben had to be dismantled. The metal in the bell was melted and then recast into a bell that weighed 13.7 tons. Once again, crowds lined the streets as a carriage bore the new bell to the Houses of Parliament.
A few months later, the tower was ready. Several teams of men worked tirelessly to winch Big Ben up and into the belfry. Finally, the huge bell joined the four smaller bells that were to sound the quarter hours. The heavy clock mechanism followed. At long last, the “King of Clocks” was ready for action—or so it seemed.
In July 1859, Big Ben began striking the hour. But the triumph was short-lived. At the beginning of October, the great bell cracked again! Removing the bell from the tower was out of the question. Instead, workers rotated the bell by a quarter turn so that the hammer would not hit the crack. Then, to prevent future disasters, a lighter hammer was installed. Within three years Big Ben was back in business! The crack remains, and it is what gives the bell its distinct bong.
In 1924 the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, installed a permanent microphone in the clock tower and began regular broadcasts of Big Ben’s chimes as the nation’s time signal. Eight years later, listeners throughout the British Commonwealth were linked in too, and today Big Ben’s melodious tones ring out round the world via the BBC World Service.
Although the clock and the bells survived the bombing of the second world war, in 1976 metal fatigue in the chiming mechanism led to mechanical failure that destroyed much of the clock room. The great bell, however, escaped undamaged, and within a few weeks, it resumed striking the hour. It took nine months to restore the clock to working order.
For a time, Big Ben was the largest clock the world had ever seen, and it still is the most accurate public mechanical timepiece. Copied frequently, its characteristic melody can be heard ringing out from both small and great clocks in many lands. Little wonder, then, that Big Ben has become a symbol of England and its capital city. It truly is a “King of Clocks”!
Big Ben - History
About Big Ben:- Big Ben or Clock Tower or Elizabeth Tower is located near of the Palace of Westminster in UK capital city London. It was built in 1859 by British Government and Architect was Augustus Pugin. Its total height is 315 ft (96 metres) and is running continue from last 160 years. Big Ben and Palace of Westminster are the two iconic buildings of England whereas Big Ben is the Clock tower which is visited by every person going for the tour of England. The Palace of Westminster serves as meeting place of the House of Parliament in the United Kingdom which are known as House of Lords and Houses of Commons and the Palace lies on the North Bank of the River. The first Royal Palace constructed in the site which dates from 11th Century and the subsequent building which is Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the Clock which lies at North End of Palace of Westminster in London. Big Ben is a landmark of the London city capital of the UK, Big Ben tickets, Big Ben price, Big Ben London tickets, Big Ben timings, Big Ben entrance fee, Big Ben visit price, Big Ben London address, Big Ben tour cost, Big Ben location and Big Ben history etc.
How can reach:- "Big Ben & Palace Of Westminster" is located in London capital city of the United Kingdom country. "Heathrow Airport" is the largest airport of the UK where tourists can get flights to all over world which is 25.5 KM (15.9 Miles) far. Tubes, Buses and Taxis services are available from Heathrow London Airport to Big Ben tourist place.
Nearest Airport:- "Heathrow London Airport" is the largest airport of the UK country. It is just 25.5 KM (15.9 Miles) distance from Big Ben. Tourists can get here flights to all over world countries.
Bus Services:- Buses are available from "Heathrow Airport" 25.5 KM (15.9 Miles) to Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) tour.
Taxi Services:- Taxis are available from "Heathrow Airport" 25.5 KM (15.9 Miles) to Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) tour.
Nearest Tube Station:- Westminster which is just 0.71 Mile (1.2 KM). Tourists can get here Tube to whole city tour and airport.
Nearest Pier: Westminster (0.5 Mile). Tourists can get here boats to other destination of the Thames River.
Big Ben Tickets Price (Entrance Fee) Tours suspended during Elizabeth Tower refurbishment
Big Ben Visit Timings:- Tours suspended during Elizabeth Tower refurbishment
Listed as UNESCO of World Heritage Sites from: 1987
Location: London Capital city, UK (Southern)
Address:- Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, UK.
Opened to Public: 31 May 1859
Tower height: 96.0 metres
Architect: Augustus Pugin
Total Floor count: 11
Tourist attractions: Horse guards Parade, London Dungeon, Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster), Clock Tower (Big Ben), Westminster Abbey, Churchill Museum etc.
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THE BIG BEN
Standing high above the Palace of Westminster in London, the clock tower commonly known as Big Ben is one of the most recognizable British icons.
The clock tower has also served to symbolize the continued functioning of the British government, particularly in wartime.
As one of the most accurate mechanical clocks at the time of its construction, Big Ben epitomized the United Kingdom&rsquos leading position in the march of technological progress during the Industrial Revolution, and its completion marked an uptick in the evolution of clocks and timekeeping in Europe.
St. Stephen's Tower is the official name of the structure. There are various theories surrounding the origin of the nickname "Big Ben," which was originally only given to the large hour bell.
The most widely accepted is that it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the commissioner of works at the time of the clock tower's construction. Another popular theory is that it was named after Benjamin Caunt, a heavyweight prize fighter of the time who held the same nickname. In any case the name stuck, and eventually evolved to apply to the clock, and later, the entire tower.
Big Ben occupies 40 square feet and stands at an imposing height of 320 feet. The clock faces are equally extraordinary for their size, measuring 23 feet in diameter with minute hands measuring 14 feet in length and hour hands measuring nine feet. Though the structure itself is impressive, Big Ben's most important aspect is its symbolic status. For example, a light above the clock shines whenever the Parliament is in session, indicating the continued functioning of the British government.
That symbolism was particularly notable during the Battle of Britain in the early days of World War II, as the clock tower remained undamaged and continued to operate in defiance of the endless waves of German bombing raids.
Each of the clock's four dials is 221/2 feet (7 meters) in diameter, and the overall length of each of the hollow copper minute hands is 14 feet (4 meters). The clock, which is famed for its accuracy, seldom shows an error greater than one second.
Ingeniously designed with a special gravity escapement that controls its pendulum, Big Ben remains a standard for accuracy in mechanical tower clocks.
Today the monumental timepiece is one of London's best-known landmarks, and the deep pealing of its bell is among the city's most familiar sounds. Londoners and tourists alike know the neo-gothic Victorian skyscraper as Big Ben, which today is one of the main attractions of England&rsquos capital.
Big Ben Clock Tower
Big Ben Tower