"The big Ben" Big Ben Tip by FionaKate

Big Ben, London: 149 reviews and 225 photos

Big Ben

The tower was begun following the disastrous fire which destroyed the old Palace of Westminster in 1834. Charles Barry was given the contract to rebuild the Palace, and his designs included a clock tower.

The Tower
The clock tower of the Palace of Westminster took 13 years to build, and was completed in 1856. The tower is 316 feet high. The spire that rises above the belfry is built with an iron frame, and it is this frame which supports the weight of the bells. A staircase rises up inside the tower, and a climb is rewarded by excellent views from the belfry level. Several small rooms are built into the lower part of the tower, including a small prison cell.

The Clocks
The cast iron frame of the clock face was designed by AW Pugin, who was responsible for much of the Gothic decorative elements of the Palace of Westminster. The dials are 23 feet in diameter and the faces themselves are not solid, but is composed of many small pieces of opal glass, assembled like a stained glass window. Several of the central pieces of glass can be removed to allow inspection of the hands from inside the clock tower. The numbers on the clock faces are each two feet high. An inscription in Latin below each clock face translates as "God save our Queen Victoria I".

At the time of its construction the clock mechanism was easily the largest in the world, and it is still among the largest today. The clock mechanism, designed by Edmund Beckett Denison, has proven to be remarkably accurate over the years, allowing small adjustments to the clock's rate to be made by placing pennies on a small shoulder of the clock's pendulum!

The Hour Bell
Big Ben - the hour bell - is said to have been named after Sir Benjamin Hall, Commissioner of Works, who was known for his bulk, as is the bell! The first Big Ben hour bell was complete before the tower, so the bell was hung in New Palace Yard. After repeated public ringing the bell cracked, and had to be replaced by the current bell.

Address: Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
Directions: Nearest Tube, Westminster Station. Near Bridge St.
Phone: +44 20 7219 4272
Website: http://www.parliament.uk/bigben

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  • Written Feb 21, 2007
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