The Big Ben, the name by which it is known to the North Tower Building British Parliament, is actually the name of the bell is inside. This tower also has the largest four-sided clock in the world, famous for its reliability. It has become the symbol of the city and the country par excellence.
Its interior, which does not have an elevator, can not be visited by the foreign public, only residents on British soil can do so and for this they must request a permit well in advance. Despite this, Big Ben is a mandatory stop for tourists, and is close to other attractions such as the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the London Aquarium or Tower Bridge .
Even the chimes of Big Ben's smaller bells striking the quarter hour are enough to cause everybody within earshot to cast a hurried glance at their watch to check they have the right time.
Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock tower at the north-eastern end of the Palace of Westminster in London, also known as the Houses of Parliament.
Of course, nowadays, the clock and indeed the entire clock tower are known throughout the world as Big Ben.
Apart from being probably London's most iconic landmark, the 150 year-old Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming clock and the third-tallest free-standing clock tower in the world.
The Big Ben tower was raised as a part of a design for a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834. The new Palace of Westminster was built in a Neo-gothic style. The clock tower was designed by Augustus Pugin, his last design apparently before his final descent into madness and death.
The Big Ben tower is 96.3 metres (315.9 ft) high and the four clock faces 55 metres (180 ft) above ground.
Despite being one of the world's most famous tourist attractions, the interior of Big Ben's tower is not open to the general public for security concerns. The tower has no elevator, so any escorted VIP's and the like must climb the 334 limestone stairs to the top.
Big Ben's tower leans slightly to the north-west, by roughly 220 millimetres (8.66 inches) at the clock face, giving an inclination of approximately 1/250. Due to thermal effects, Big Ben oscillates annually by a few millimetres east and west.
Big Ben was once the largest four-faced clock in the world. Today, the Great Clock of Westminster still holds the title of the "world's largest four-faced chiming clock". Big Ben's hour hand is 2.7 metres (9 ft) long and the minute hand is 4.3 metres (14 ft) long.
Big Ben's Clock Tower has appeared in many films, most notably in the 1978 version of The Thirty-Nine Steps, in which the hero attempts to halt the clock's progress by hanging from the minute hand of Big Ben's western face; thus preventing the detonation of a cunningly-placed bomb and saving humanity as we know it!
Some surveys have found that Big Ben is the most popular landmark in the United Kingdom. Big Ben has also been voted the 'Most Iconic London Film Location'.
All we know is, Big Ben remains a true symbol of London Big Ben's beauty has stood the test of time for 150 years.
And it's not a bad place to head for when you need to re-set your watch!
Big Ben's main bell and the largest bell in the tower is officially known as the Great Bell. The original main bell weighed in at 16 tons and was cast in 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees in the north of England!
The bell was never officially named but apparently the person responsible for commissioning the bell was one Sir Benjamin Hall. This may be the origin of Big Ben's name.
Another theory for the origin of Big Ben's name is that the bell may have been named after a heavyweight boxer of the day, one Benjamin Caunt. On balance, we prefer to think Big Ben was synonimous with a heavyweight boxer than a wimpish public servant!
Since the tower that was itself to become known as Big Ben was not yet finished, the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard, Westminster. The bell was then transported to the tower on a trolley drawn by sixteen horses, with crowds cheering its progress
As fate would have it, the Big Ben bell cracked beyond repair while being tested and a replacement had to be made. The new bell was recast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry weighing in at 13½ tons.
At the time of its casting, Big Ben was the largest bell in the United Kingdom. It remained so until 1881 until "Great Paul", a 16¾ ton bell currently hung in St. Paul's Cathedral, was cast.
The new Big Ben bell was hauled 200ft up to the Clock Tower's belfry, a feat that took 18 hours. The bell is 2.2 metres tall and 2.9 metres wide. Big Ben's new bell first chimed, or 'bonged', in July 1859.
As fate would again have it, the new Big Ben bell also cracked under the hammer, a mere two months after it officially went into service.
Accusations flew from the foundry that a hammer had been used on the Great Bell that was more than twice the maximum weight specified.
For three years the Big Ben bell was taken out of commission and the hours were struck on the lowest of the quarter bells until the Great Bell was reinstalled.
To make good the repair, a square piece of metal was chipped out from the rim around the crack, and the Big Ben bell given an eighth of a turn so the new hammer struck in a different place.
Big Ben has chimed with an odd twang (or barmy bong?) ever since and is still in use today complete with the ancient crack.We're sure that Big Ben's imperfections go unnoticed today by the tens of millions of ears that tune in to Big Ben's glorious chimes, literally around the clock!
The Big Ben clock tower is a place that London's tourists flock to and it's one of London, and indeed the' UK s most popular attractions. Certainly Big Ben's clock is famous for its reliability.
The pendulum is installed within an enclosed windproof box sunk beneath the clockroom. It is 3.9m long, weighs 300 kg and beats every 2 seconds. Big Ben's clockwork mechanism is in a room below and weighs 5 tons.
The clock of Big Ben has an interesting feature. On top of the clock's pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins.Believe it or not, these are used to adjust the time of Big Ben'sclock. Adding or subtracting coins has the effect of minutely alteringthe position of the pendulum's centre of mass, the effective length ofthe pendulum rod and hence the rate at which the pendulum swings. Adding or removing a penny will change Big Ben's clock's speed by 0.4 second per day. How high tech is that?
During the Blitz, the Palace of Westminster (also known as the Houses of Parliament) was hit by German bombing, on 10 May 1941, a bombing raid damaged two of Big Ben's clockfaces and sections of the tower's stepped roof. Bombs also destroyed the House of Commons chamber. Despite the heavy bombing Big Ben's clock ran accurately and chimed throughout the Blitz.
In 1916, for two years during the First World War, Big Ben's bells were silenced and the clock face darkened at night to prevent attack by German Zeppelins.
During the Second World War, from the beginning of September 1939,although Big Ben's bells continued to ring, the clock faces weredarkened at night to prevent guiding enemy pilots to central London (the Blitz).
On New Year's Eve 1962, Big Ben's clock slowed due to heavy snow and ice on the long hands, causing the pendulum to detach from the clockworkmechanism. It is designed to do this in such circumstances, theobjective being to avoid serious damage elsewhere in the mechanism. Thependulum continuing to swing freely but Big Ben chimed in the new year 10 minutes late!
The first and only major breakdown of Big Ben's clock occurred on 5 August 1976.The speed regulator of Big Ben's chiming mechanism finally broke after100+ years of torsional fatigue. This resulted in the fully-wound 4 tonweights applying all of their energy into Big Ben's chiming mechanism inone go.
A great deal of damage was caused and Big Ben's Great Clock was shut down for a total of 26 days over nine months. The clock was reactivated on 9 May 1977 resulting in the longest break in its operation since Big Ben's clock was built.
On 27 May 2005, Big Ben's clock stopped at 10:07 pm local time. This may have been due to the hot weather (temperatures inLondon had reached an unseasonal 31.8 °C (90 °F)). Big Ben's clockrestarted, but stopped again at 10:20 pm local time and remained still for about 90 minutes before starting again.
On 29 October 2005 the mechanism of Big Ben's clock was stopped for about 33 hours, the lengthiest maintenance shutdown in 22 years.
On 5 June 2006, Big Ben's "Quarter Bells" were taken out of commission for four weeks to repair a bearing holding one of the quarter bells, damaged from years of wear and tear.
A 6-week stoppage for maintenance of Big Ben's clock started on 11 August 2007. Bearings in the clock's drive train and the "Great Bell" striker were replaced, for the first time since installation.
During the maintenance works, the clock of Big Ben was not driven by the original mechanism, but by an electric motor.
OK,so Big Ben has had a few 'issues' down the years but how iconic, howreliable and how uplifting to know the old fellow is there!
For more than 150 years, Big Ben has stood proudly over the Houses of Parliament , the UK's seat of government .
BigBen is like an old friend to Londoners and London's visitors. Big Benwas here before us and will still be here after we are just a memory.
And the regular chimes of our old friend every 15 minutes is a constant reminder to all of us that time waits for no man.
From June 26, 2012, date of the Diamond Jubilee of the British monarch, the tower has a new name: Elizabeth Tower , to commemorate the 60 years on the throne of Queen Elizabeth II. It is one of the favorite monuments of our london guide .
Metro: Circle, District and Jubilee lines.
Houses of Parliament, Bridge Street, SW1