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Big Ben Facts

The Great Bell of the clock in the Palace of Westminster in London is nicknamed “Big Ben.”

The tower was designed in a neo-Gothic style and featured a clock with a large dial. It has four nations represented on its shields, including England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

The largest of the tower’s five bells is the Big Ben, which weighs 13.5 long tons (13.7 tonnes; 15.1 short tons) and is named after Sir Benjamin Hall.

The Tower of London is a famous symbol of the United Kingdom and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Big Ben Facts for kids

  • Big Ben is 316 feet High
  • It’s part of the Palace of Westminster
  • Big Ben has four clock faces.
  • The diameter of each clock face is 23 feet.
  • Each clock face has a minute hand that is 14 feet long.

When was Big Ben Built?

The tower has 316 feet (96.3 m) of vertical height a. It was designed in Pugin’s Gothic Revival style and constructed with sand-colored Anston limestone.

The Palace of Westminster was devastated by fire in 1834. In 1844, the Houses of Parliament’s new buildings included a clock and a tower.

John Warner & Sons, Stockton-on-Tees, made the initial bell, but it cracked and failed. In 1858, the bell was remade in Whitechapel, London, after it was melted down.

May 31st, 1859, was the first time Big Ben chimed. Big Ben broke in 1859, in September of that year. It was rotated so that the hammer would hit an undamaged portion of the bell. This version of the bell can be clearly heard.

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

Where is Big Ben?

London’s Big Ben is located in the Elizabeth Tower at the north end of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

The Tower

The Elizabeth Tower was raised as a part of Charles Barry’s design for a new parliament, built in a neo-gothic style. Pugin designed the tower for Barry, and it is 315 feet (96.0 m) high.

The interior of the tower is not open to overseas visitors. However, United Kingdom residents can arrange tours through their members of Parliament.

Due to changes in ground conditions since construction, the Tower leans slightly to the north-west. It oscillates by a few millimeters east and west.

Journalists during Queen Victoria’s reign called it St Stephen’s Tower. The Westminster district, and Parliament, are known as San Steffan.

On June 2nd, 2012, MPs supported a proposal to rename Elizabeth Tower to reflect Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee. On June 26th, 2012, the House of Commons confirmed that the name change could go ahead.

The Clock

The Great Clock of Westminster, designed by Augustus Pugin, measures 23 feet in diameter and has 312 pieces of opal glass.

The movement of the clock was invented by Edmund Beckett Denison and George Airy and is famous for its reliability. It was installed in 1854, and is 13 feet long, weighs 660 pounds, and beats every 2 seconds.

On May 10th, 1941, the House of Commons chamber was destroyed in a German bombing raid. A new five-floor block was designed and completed in 1950.

The Great Bell

The Great Bell was a 16-ton hour bell that was possibly named in honor of Sir Benjamin Hall. However, another theory for the name suggests that it may have been named after a contemporary heavyweight boxer.

The first bell at Big Ben was cracked beyond repair, and a new bell had to be cast, and it was pulled up 200 feet to the Clock Tower’s belfry, a feat that took 18 hours.

The Nickname

The nickname “Big Ben” may have been derived from Sir Benjamin Hall or boxing’s English heavyweight champion Benjamin Caunt. The name is now used to refer to the clock, the tower, and the bell collectively.

The Cultural importance

The clock has become a cultural symbol of the United Kingdom. When a television or film-maker wishes to indicate a generic location in the country, they show an image of the clock.

The sound of the clock chimes can be heard in audio media. The Westminster Quarters are heard from other clocks and other devices, and the Westminster chimes are broadcast to mark the start of the New Year.

On July 27th, 2012, Big Ben chimed 30 times to welcome in the London Olympic Games.

More Fun Facts about Big Ben

As the cultural symbol of the United Kingdom, Big Ben is easily recognizable.

In 2012, the Clock Tower has renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

Big Ben is commonly mistaken for the clock tower outside of England. Big Ben is named for the tower’s largest bell.

The tower and Palace of Westminster were designed by Augustus Pugin.

Three times a week, Big Ben’s clockwork mechanism is wound by hand.

German bombs damaged two clock faces in 1941.

Winston Churchill’s funeral led to the disabling of the bells on January 30th, 1965.

Workers restoring Big Ben had their hearing protected by disabling the bells in 2017.