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. 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. However, most people, including those that live in London, call the tower "Big Ben", because it is very large.
Designed by Edmund Beckett Denison, the clock took 13 years to build and it was completed in 1859. 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 London's best-known landmarks. Some believe it got its name from Sir Benjamin Hall. 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.
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. 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 four bells in the Elizabeth Tower. 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 Quarters.
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.
- "The story of Big Ben". whitechapelbellfoundry. http://www.whitechapelbellfoundry.co.uk/bigben.htm. Retrieved 2010-05-19.
- Clock Tower renamed Elizabeth Tower for Jubilee (BBC News)
- "Bong! Big Ben rings in its 150th anniversary". msnbc. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31002198/. Retrieved 2010-05-19.
- "Big Ben mired in a rare slump for a winner". Pittsburgh Post Gazette.com. http://www.post-gazette.com/steelers/2013/09/29/Big-Ben-mired-in-a-rare-slump-for-a-winner/stories/201309290110. Retrieved December 17, 2013.
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