When you think about the symbols of England, the first thing that comes to your mind is the famous landmark of London – the tower of Big Ben.
What is Big Ben
Big Ben is the largest of the six bells in Westminster Palace. Many people think that it’s a name of the clock tower in London, but in fact the name refers to the 13-ton bell, which is inside of the tower behind the clock dial.
The official name of Big Ben was the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster. In 2012, by the decision of the British Parliament, this attraction of England was renamed to Elizabeth Tower (in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s reign).
Despite other names, the name "Big Ben" remains the most popular and is used for the general designation of the tower, clock and bell.
From the history of Big Ben
The clock tower was built in Westminster in 1288, and at that time it had a completely different look.
In 1834, a terrible fire broke out in Westminster Palace and everything was burned down. It was rebuilt by Charles Barry together with the architect Augustus Welby Pugin, who designed the present clock tower in the neo-gothic style. In 1859, when Big Ben was constructed, the mechanism for resetting the clock was initiated, and to this day it shows an exact time.
There are two popular versions in honor of whom the London clock was named. The first version sounds like this: the tower got its name in honor of Benjamin Hall, the one who built Big Ben, or to be more precise, who was managing the construction of it. The engineer had a rather large stature so because of it he was often called as Big Ben. Another version of the name of the clock tower refers to the popular heavyweight boxer Ben Caunt.
The Height of Big Ben
The size of the tower with the spire is 320 feet (96.3 meters). To imagine what height Big Ben has, imagine the high level of a 16-story building.
There are no elevators or lifts in the tower, that is why it is closed for intensive public use. The exceptions to the rule are made from time to time, and then the visitors should master 334 steps to go upstairs.
The clock on the Big Ben Tower in London is the largest in the world by far. The diameter of the dial is 7 meters. The length of the arrows is 2.7 and 4.2 meters.
The clock mechanism is considered the standard of trueness; its total weight is 5 tons. The watchmaker Edward John Dent was responsible for the machinery assembly, on which work was completed in 1854. A fundamentally new double three-stage system was created, which allows a better division of the pendulum and five-ton clockwork.
The reliability of the clock was proved even during the Second World War when the German bombings damaged two dials and the roof of the tower but the clock did not disrupt its move. Consequently, this landmark of Great Britain has become a symbol of accuracy and reliability of all English. By the way, there is an inscription "God save our Queen Victoria I" at the bottom of each dial, which is also absolutely in the English spirit.
Big Ben Highlights
13 tons - that's the weight of Big Ben (the biggest bell in Westminster Palace).
The London Clock is an international standard of time, and it is also considered to be the largest quadruple clock with chimes in the world.
The accuracy of the clock is adjusted with a coin of 1 penny (if necessary, the coin is put on the pendulum and its movement slows down by 0.4 seconds per day).
In the bell tower, apart from the Big Ben bell (sounding every hour), there are four more quarters that ring every quarter hour. The sound of the melody is composed of 20 consecutive Cambridge chimes; for each quarter of an hour, there is its own bell composition.
To the sound of Big Ben the English meet the New Year; all mournful events and moments of silence are also accompanied by the sound of the bell.
News programs in England start with a picture of the tower.
The image of Big Ben is used almost in all openings of documentary and feature films about England.
Once, in the tower of Big Ben, there was a prison for parliamentarians who acted violently at the meetings of parliament. The last prisoner was Emmeline Pankhurst, a political activist that fought for women's rights. In honor of her, there is a monument on the Parliament Square, where Big Ben stands.
Big Ben information: location & address on the map
Location: London, Parliament Square
Address: Palace of Westminster, Old Palace Yard, London SW1
The nearest tube station: Westminster on the Circle
How to get by bus: go to the Parliament Square or to the bus stop “Whitehall Street” (Trafalgar Square).
If you are suddenly tired of the imposing architecture of London, you can visit one of the first museums of Madame Tussauds, with a unique collection of wax figures.
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Big Ben on London map