Big Ben

bell within the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster in London, England

Big Ben is the nickname of a bell that hangs in the clock tower at the northern end of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, England.[1] Officially, the tower itself is called Elizabeth Tower. It was previously known as just the Clock Tower, but was renamed in September 2012 as a tribute to the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.[2] However, most people, including those that live in London, call the tower "Big Ben" because it is very large.

The Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben

Designed by Edmund Beckett Denison, the clock took 13 years to build and it was completed in 1859.[3] It has worked continuously since then except for a few months in 1976 when it broke down and had to be fixed.

Big Ben is one of England’s best-known landmarks. Some believe it got its name from Sir Benjamin Hall.[1] The Elizabeth Tower which it is located in has become one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and is often in the establishing shot of films set in London.

In August 2017, repair work commenced on the clock, which was intended to take four years. However, Big Ben did not resume regular service until November 2022.[4] For the safety of those doing the repair work, Big Ben no longer rang out every hour during construction. It was still heard on special occasions, such as the New Year and Remembrance Day.[5]

Description change

The Great Clock is wound three times a week.

The Elizabeth Tower is over 96 metres (315 ft) high and the turret clock mechanism that drives the clock alone weighs about 5 tons (5.08 tonnes). The clock on it has four faces that are 9 feet (2.7 m) in diameter, making it one of the largest in the world for a clock that chimes and strikes every hour.[6] The figures on the clock face are about 2 feet (0.61 m) long and the minute spaces are 1 foot (0.30 m) long. There are, however, clocks with much bigger faces that Big Ben. One of these is the Abraj Al Bait, a hotel in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Its faces are more than ten times bigger than Big Ben.

The bell known as Big Ben weighs 13 tons and is the biggest of the five bells in the Elizabeth Tower.[1] Big Ben only sounds at the top of every hour, and at that time it rings once for every hour (for example, it rings three times at 3 o'clock). The other four bells in the tower are smaller and play a short melody every 15 minutes. This melody, which is broadcasted live on BBC Radio 4 at 6 pm and midnight every day, can be heard in many other clocks around the world and is called the Westminster Chimes.

The bells are struck by hammers that are connected to the clock mechanism, which is powered by large weights that are wound three times a week. It does not use any electricity except for winding and to light the faces so that the clock could be seen when it is dark.

Big Ben chimes recorded in 1890 using a phonograph.

References change

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "The story of Big Ben". whitechapelbellfoundry. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  2. Clock Tower renamed Elizabeth Tower for Jubilee (BBC News)
  3. "MSN | Outlook, Office, Skype, Bing, Breaking News, and Latest Videos". msnbc. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  4. "Big Ben returns to regular service". UK Parliament. 15 November 2022. Retrieved 9 April 2024.
  5. Powell, Tom (13 October 2017). "Big Ben almost entirely covered in scaffolding as repair work gathers pace". Evening Standard. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  6. "Big Ben mired in a rare slump for a winner". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved 17 December 2013.