Big Ben

Big Ben

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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.

Big Ben bell
© steny02 / Shutterstock

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.

Big Ben
© ansharphoto / Shutterstock

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

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 clock
© lunamarina / Shutterstock

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 at night
© Bikeworldtravel / Shutterstock

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.

Check out all London hotels and choose the best one for you.

Map

Big Ben - attractions nearby

Entrance tickets & Tours

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from179
Sir Winston Churchill Private Walking Tour & War Rooms
5 reviews
This one is for all fans and affecionados of our Greatest Briton of all time, war time Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.This walking tour takes around the streets of Picadilly, St James and Westminster and takes us to places that were important in the life of Churchill. Finally we finish at the Churchill War Rooms, the underground bunker from which Churchill ran the war and which are perfectly preserved to this day.Our Churchill tour has even been featured on international television.
4 hours
Free cancellation
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from179EUR
4 hours
Free cancellation
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from288
Darkest Hour - Parliament and Churchill War Rooms Private Tour
1 review
Spend a day in the political heart of London in Whitehall and Westminster with this tour that visits the mother of all Parliaments where modern the democracy movement got underway and evolved over centuries followed by a tour of Parliament Square and then on to the Churchill War Rooms where the fight against tyranny was overseen.
4 hours
Free cancellation
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from288EUR
4 hours
Free cancellation
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from87
London Walking, Boat Tour with Tower of London Early Access
127 reviews
See the best of London’s royal highlights on a 4-hour walking tour. Begin with an early access visit to the infamous Tower of London, where you’ll see the opening ceremony and be dazzled by the Crown Jewels. Then, soak up the sights during a 30-minute Thames River cruise before taking in the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace or Horse Guards Parade. End your tour outside the palace, where you’ll learn about Queen Elizabeth II and the history of the British Royal Family.
4 hours
Free cancellation
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from87EUR
4 hours
Free cancellation
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from408
Premier London Private Tour in an iconic London 'Black Cab'
1 review
See all the iconic sights of London and more from the comfort of one of the Capitals biggest and instantly recognisable icons, a London Black Cab!With your London Highlights tour we will travel through time going back to the city's Roman roots, through the Medieval period right up to the modern day, taking in the major sights of St. Pauls, Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace plus some lesser known places.Throughout the whole tour my aim will be to keep everything light hearted, fun and memorable on each of the places we visit.We will not be confined to the taxi, and as opportunities arise, we can always stop for those much wanted photo opportunities and at times perhaps a small stroll to the more advantageous spots.Please remember this tour can be totally bespoke and therefore totally tailored to your requirements
4 hours
Free cancellation
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from408EUR
4 hours
Free cancellation
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Hotels near Big Ben

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