In 1844, the British Parliament decided that the new buildings for the Houses of Parliament, then under construction, should have a tower with a clock. After much time was spent on the planning stages, Big Ben was finally cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Big Ben was then transported from the foundry to the Houses of Parliament by a horse drawn carriage, much to the delight of the crowds of onlookers.
At first, the bell was to be called "Victoria," in honour of the Queen. However, "Big Ben" was the name that came to be used. At the time that the bell was built, there were two well known men named Ben. One was a champion boxer -- Benjamin Caunt. The second Ben was Sir Benjamin Hall, a Member of Parliament who, as Commissioner of Public Works, had a great deal to do with the clock tower and the bells. His name was on the side of the first bell that had cracked. Either of these two men could have inspired the nickname "Big Ben," but no one is really sure which it was!
Many people think that the clock in the tower of London's House Of Parliament is called "Big Ben." Actually, the nickname "Big Ben" originally applied to the huge bell in the clock, not to the clock itself.
Shortly after it was put into place, Big Ben developed a crack that still exists today. Due mostly to increased city noise, Big Ben is not as easy to hear today as it was in 1844 but it still rings on time. The clock tower is particularly splendid now after an extensive renovation and cleaning.
You can't miss it when you go over Westminster bridge!
Big Ben Stats:
- At 9'-0" diameter, 7'-6" high, and weighing more than 30,000 pounds (13 tons), the bell of the Great Clock of Westminster or 'Big Ben' is one of the most famous bells in the world.
- However, the worldwide fame of Big Ben is often incorrectly bestowed, not on Big Ben the bell, but instead on the clock tower in which it hangs. Today, it is impossible not to go on any bus or walking tour of London without hearing one of the groups members point and shout, "look over there in the sky it's Big Ben." When what they mean to say is, "look over there it's the clock tower."
- Big Ben is the name of the main bell in the clock tower, not the name of the actual tower.
- The largest bell ever cast in Britain up to that time had been 'Great Peter' at York Minster. This weighed just 10 3/4 tons.
- The commission for the tower was awarded to the architect Charles Barry, whilst the specification for the clock was drawn up by the Astronomer Royal, George Airy.
- The clock movement was designed by Edmund Beckett Denison. The clock in rcthelp's local church (also built by the Beckett family) uses a prototype design for the Big Ben clock movement!
- The bells of the Great Clock of Westminster rang across London for the first time on 31st May 1859. In 1976, the clock movement was badly damaged after metal fatigue caused a catastrophic failure.
- Each dial is composed of 312 many individual pieces of glass.