Big Ben Facts  And History Of The Tower

Big Ben is one of the most famous attractions in London and is one that can be seen towering above the North Eastern end of Houses of Parliament in Westminster. It is the largest clock with four faces in the world and also one of the tallest standing clock towers. This iconic piece of architecture that stands proud on the banks of the River Thames is definately one of the sights that any visitor to London should take the time to see. It is also one of the many FREE attractions that can be enjoyed during your time in London and although visitors can actually take a tour of the tower, if you just want to see it and hear the bells chime, it will cost nothing.

The actual tower is known as ‘The Elizabeth Tower’ and was designed by the architect Charles Barry. The new Tower was designed and built to replace the old Palace of Westminster that was destroyed by a fire on 16 October 1834. However, the new tower had several complications along the way during its build and as a result, was not actually operational for many years after the fire in 1834.

When Was Big Ben Built And The Building Of The Tower

The foundations of the tower are 9 metres in depth and 15 square by 15 metres in width. The first foundation stone was laid on 28 September 1843.
The actual Tower was built from the ‘inside out’, which meant that when the tower was being built, there was no need for scaffolding on the outer part of the tower. This allowed building to take place without it creating an eyesore for the residents and visitors to the city.

The tower consist of several different materials such as, Stone, Granite and Cast Iron, which were all sourced from various supplier throughout the UK and Europe.

Who Designed The Clock Of Big Ben

After much competition from many Clockmakers, a man called Edward John Dent was appointed to build the clock in 1852. Before the appointment of the Clockmaker to whom would build the clock, there had been several stipulations set as to the design and mechanics of the clock. Once Dent had be appointed to build the clock, he was then requested to build the clock to the designs of a man called Edmund Beckett Denison, who at the time was a barraster but also a keen ameteur Clockmaker. Several delays occurred during the design and build of the clock and in 1853 Edward John Dent himself sadly passed away. After his passing, in 1853, his stepson Fredrick then took over the building of the clock and it was eventually completed in 1854.

However, it was not until 5 years after its completion that the clock began working. On 31 May 1859 the new clock in The Elizabeth Tower was first operational.

What Is Big Ben

Although many people now associate the tower and clock as ‘Big Ben’, it is only the ‘Great Bell’ in the Belfry of the tower that is actually called ‘Big Ben’.

The ‘Great Bell’ was first heard striking the hour and echoing around London on 11 July 1859 and the first ‘Quarter Chimes’ were heard on 07 September that same year. There had been many teething problems with the clock and the original bell cracked. Since those early days, the clock has kept the people and visitors of the city in time and the bell can be heard striking the hours and its quarter chimes can be heard every 15 minutes throughout the day. The clock is always set to be accurate to within one second a day.

The Video Below Is A Tour Of Inside Clock Tower:

The ‘Great Bell’ Facts:

The bell on the clock  strikes every hour and the bell is struck by a hammer to produce the chime. There are also several smaller bells in the clock tower that are known as ‘Quarter’ bells and chime every 15 minutes throughout the day. The bells chime at 15, 30 and 45 minutes past every hour and each one of the chimes are different to diferentiate each one.

How Big Is Big Ben

The actual weight of Big Ben is: 13.7 tonnes
The Height of the Great Bell is: 2.2m
The Diameter of the bell is: 2.7m

Big Ben Chimes:

The videos below, shows you how each chime sounds.

Quarter Hour Chime:

Half Hour Chime:

Three Quarter Chime:

12 0’Clock Chime:

Big Ben New Years Eve:

London at New Year is notoriuos for its firework displays and also for the chimes of Big Ben on the stroke of Midnight. Hundreds of thousands of people congregate around Westminster and along the banks of the Thames to see in the New year awaiting those famous chimes. The video below shows the New Years celebration in London and how the famous clock plays a central role for bringing in the New Year.

Why Is Big Ben Called Big Ben

Basically, there are a couple of theories as to why the ‘Great bell’ of the clock in ‘The Elizabeth Tower’ adopted its name as ‘Big Ben’. The most likely of the theories is believed to be that it was named so after Sir Benjamin Hall the chief commissioner of the works in at the time of completion. The more unlikely reason is that it was named after a heavyweight cahmpion boxer at the time called Benjamin Caunt.

How Tall Is Big Ben 

The Tower is 96.3 metres (316 feet) high and is one of the highest free standing clocks in the world. The first 61 metres (200 feet) of the clock tower is made from stone and brick. The next 35.3 metres of the tower (the spire) is made from an iron frame work.

Big Ben Tour

It is possible to actually climb the 334 steps and see behind the clock face and also hear Big Ben as it strikes the hour. The tours run three times per day throughout the year during the week Monday to Friday but do not run on Bank Holidays. The tours are free but you will need to book well in advance to ensure you reserve your place. Children under the age of 11 are not permitted on the tours.

Visitors from the UK need to contact their local MP to arrange a tour.

Big Ben Tour Times:

The tours run at 09.15am – 11.15am and 14.15pm. (These times were correct at the time of writing).

How Old Is Big Ben

In 2009, Big Ben was 150

Big Ben Clock Face

Obviously, the four main features that are seen by visitors to London every single day, are the four clock faces of the tower. The dials on the clock face stand 54.9 metres (180 feet) above street level are all housed in an iron frame and each one of these iron frames measure 7 metres in diameter. Under each dial on the clock is the inscription:

“Domine Salvam fac Reginam nostrum Victoriam primam”

This is Latin for: “O Lord, save our Queen Victoria the First.”

The clock dials were designed by Augustus Pugin.

There are also 312 pieces of Opal glass on the face of the clock and many of these can be taken off when the hands of the clock need cleaning or inspecting. Maintenance is carried out every 5 years on the clock face. This is undertaken by a team of specialist people who abseil down each face and clean it.

Big Ben Address: Parliament Square, Westminster, St Margaret Street, London
Big Ben Postcode: SW1A 0AA
Telephone: 020 7219 3000

We hope that the information on this page has been beneficial and helped to provide a little more information on Big Ben.