Big Ben is the name given to the bell of the clock but it often refers to the whole tower. It is situated at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. After celebrating the diamond jubilee of Elizabeth II, the tower was named Elizabeth Tower instead of the Clock Tower. This tower has become one of the main tourist attractions in London after being completed in 1858. Big Ben is the third largest free standing tower and has the largest four faced chiming clock which makes it a popular attraction to all visitors in London.
Previously known as the Clock Tower, the Elizabeth tower was built as part of the new design of the palace when it was burnt down in 1834. Charles Barry was the main architect but he turned to Augustus Pugin when designing the tower. This was the last architecture that Pugin was involved in before he died. The Elizabeth Tower is 315 feet high which is around 16 storeys. The bottom of the tower has been built using bricks and limestone whereas the rest of the tower has been build using cast iron. The tower is one of the most famous tourist attractions but visitors from overseas are not allowed inside. Only United Kingdom residents can book tours through their MP although to get up to the top of the tower 334 limestone stairs have to be climbed.
The clock itself was designed by Augustus Pugin and is set in an iron frame supporting 312 pieces of opal glass. The construction of the movement of the clock was left to Edward John Dent but after he died Frederick Dent completed it. Denison, another designer, had time to experiment with the movement and he came up with the double three legged gravity escapement. The clock itself is 13 feet long, weighs 660 pounds and beats every 2 seconds.
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Big Ben refers to the main bell in the clock and is officially known as the Great Bell. This bell is named after Sir Benjamin Hall and has his name inscribed on it. It was originally meant to be named Victoria or Royal Victoria after Queen Victoria but was later named Big Ben during a debate in Parliament. The bell was originally cast in 1856 but after being damaged it was later replaced in 1858 which first chimed in July 1959. Big Ben was taken out for 3 years and the lowest of the quarter bells were struck to signify the hours. After repairing it, Big Ben now chimes with a slightly different tone. When the bell was first cast it was the biggest bell in the British Isles but in 1881 Great Paul was cast and then became the largest bell. There isn’t only this bell; the tower also houses 4 quarter bells which chime on the quarter hours.
Significance in culture
The tower and its clock have become a symbol of the United Kingdom and are often used to represent the country along with a red double decker bus and a black cab. Big Ben is the main focus for New Year celebrations as it is the bell that chimes to signify the New Year. This bell is also used to signify the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month for Remembrance Day. The tower has also been used in many different films including the James Bond film, Thunderball. In 2012 the chimes of Big Ben struck 30 times to welcome the London Olympic Games.