2 Big BenBig Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, and often extended to refer to the clock and the clock tower. The tower is now officially called the Elizabeth Tower, after being renamed (from "Clock Tower") to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The Elizabeth Tower holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and is the third-tallest free-standing clock tower. The tower was completed in 1858 and had its 150th anniversary on 31 May 2009, during which celebratory events took place. The Elizabeth Tower has become one of the most prominent symbols of both London and England and is often in the establishing shot of films set in the city.
3 Big Ben MovementThe clock's movement is famous for its reliability. The designers were the lawyer and amateur horologist Edmund Beckett Denison, and George Airy, the Astronomer Royal. Construction was entrusted to clockmaker Edward John Dent; after his death in 1853 his stepson Frederick Dent completed the work, in 1854. As the Tower was not complete until 1859, Denison had time to experiment: Instead of using the deadbeat escapement and remontoire as originally designed, Denison invented the double three-legged gravity escapement. This escapement provides the best separation between pendulum and clock mechanism. The pendulum is installed within an enclosed windproof box sunk beneath the clock room. It is 13 feet (4.0 m) long, weighs 660 pounds (300 kg) and beats every 2 seconds. The clockwork mechanism in a room below weighs 5 tons. On top of the pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins; these are to adjust the time of the clock. Adding a coin has the effect of minutely lifting the position of the pendulum's centre of mass, reducing the effective length of the pendulum rod and hence increasing the rate at which the pendulum swings. Adding or removing a penny will change the clock's speed by 0.4 seconds per day.On 10 May 1941, a German bombing raid damaged two of the clock's dials and sections of the tower's stepped roof and destroyed the House of Commons chamber. Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed a new five-floor block. Two floors are occupied by the current chamber, which was used for the first time on 26 October Despite the heavy bombing the clock ran accurately and chimed throughout the Blitz.Elizabeth Tower tilts as a result of the excavation of tunnels near Westminster. The tower has tilted an additional 0.9 mm each year since 2003, and the tilt can now be seen by the naked eye.
4 Big Ben ClockThe clock and dials were designed by Augustus Pugin. The clock dials are set in an iron frame 23 feet (7.0 m) in diameter, supporting 312 pieces of opal glass, rather like a stained-glass window. Some of the glass pieces may be removed for inspection of the hands. The surround of the dials is gilded. At the base of each clock dial in gilt letters is the Latin inscription:DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM
5 Big Ben Great BellThe main bell, officially known as the Great Bell, is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster. The bell is better known by the nickname Big Ben.The original bell was a 16 ton (16.3-tonne) hour bell, cast on 6 August 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees by John Warner & Sons. The bell was named in honour of Sir Benjamin Hall, and his name is inscribed on it. However, another theory for the origin of the name is that the bell may have been named after a contemporary heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt. It is thought that the bell was originally to be called Victoria or Royal Victoria in honour of Queen Victoria, but that an MP suggested the nickname during a Parliamentary debate; the comment is not recorded in Hansard.Since the tower was not yet finished, the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard. Cast in 1856, the first bell was transported to the tower on a trolley drawn by sixteen horses, with crowds cheering its progress. Unfortunately, it cracked beyond repair while being tested and a replacement had to be made. The bell was recast on 10 April 1858 at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13½ ton (13.76-tonne) bell. This was pulled 200 ft (61.0 m) up to the Clock Tower’s belfry, a feat that took 18 hours. It is 7 feet 6 inches (2.29 m) tall and 9 feet (2.74 m) diameter. This new bell first chimed in July In September it too cracked under the hammer, a mere two months after it officially went into service. According to the foundry's manager, George Mears, Denison had used a hammer more than twice the maximum weight specified. For three years Big Ben was taken out of commission and the hours were struck on the lowest of the quarter bells until it was reinstalled. To make the repair, a square piece of metal was chipped out from the rim around the crack, and the bell given an eighth of a turn so the new hammer struck in a different place. Big Ben has chimed with a slightly different tone ever since and is still in use today complete with the crack. At the time of its casting, Big Ben was the largest bell in the British Isles until "Great Paul", a 16¾ ton (17 tonne) bell currently hung in St Paul's Cathedral, was cast in 1881.
6 Big Ben NicknameThe origin of the nickname Big Ben is the subject of some debate. The nickname was applied first to the Great Bell; it may have been named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the Great Bell, or after boxing's English Heavyweight Champion Benjamin Caunt. Now Big Ben is often used, by extension, to refer to the clock, the tower and the bell collectively, although the nickname is not universally accepted as referring to the clock and tower. Some authors of works about the tower, clock and bell sidestep the issue by using the words Big Ben first in the title, then going on to clarify that the subject of the book is the clock and tower as well as the bell.
7 Big Ben in popular culture The clock has become a symbol of the United Kingdom and London, particularly in the visual media. When a television or film-maker wishes to indicate a generic location in Britain, a popular way to do so is to show an image of the tower, often with a red double-decker bus or black cab in the foreground.The sound of the clock chiming has also been used this way in audio media, but as the Westminster Quarters are heard from other clocks and other devices, the unique nature of this sound has been considerably diluted. Big Ben is a focus of New Year celebrations in the United Kingdom, with radio and TV stations tuning to its chimes to welcome the start of the New Year. As well, to welcome in 2012, the clock tower itself was lit with fireworks that exploded at every toll of Big Ben. This also happens when 2013 officially starts. Similarly, on Remembrance Day, the chimes of Big Ben are broadcast to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and the start of two minutes' silence. Londoners who live an appropriate distance from the Tower and Big Ben can, by means of listening to the chimes both live and on analogue radio, hear the bell strike thirteen times. This is possible due to what amounts to an offset between live and electronically transmitted chimes since the speed of sound is a lot slower than the speed of radio waves. Guests are invited to count the chimes aloud as the radio is gradually turned down.ITN's News at Ten opening sequence formerly featured an image of the Elizabeth Tower with the sound of Big Ben's chimes punctuating the announcement of the news headlines. The Big Ben chimes (known within ITN as "The Bongs") continue to be used during the headlines and all ITV News bulletins use a graphic based on the Westminster clock dial. Big Ben can also be heard striking the hour before some news bulletins on BBC Radio 4 (6 pm and midnight, plus 10 pm on Sundays) and the BBC World Service, a practice that began on 31 December The sound of the chimes are sent in real time from a microphone permanently installed in the tower and connected by line to Broadcasting House.The Tower has appeared in many films, most notably in the 1978 version of The Thirty Nine Steps, in which the hero, Richard Hannay, attempted to halt the clock's progress (to prevent a linked bomb detonating) by hanging from the minute hand of its western dial. In the fourth James Bond film, Thunderball, a mistaken extra strike of Big Ben on the hour is designated by criminal organisation SPECTRE to be the signal that the British Government has acceded to its nuclear extortion demands. It was also used in the filming of Shanghai Knights starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, and was depicted as being partially destroyed in the Doctor Who episode "Aliens of London". Big Ben was also featured in the closing scene of James McTeigue's film V for Vendetta in which a futuristic depiction of Guy Fawkes succeeds in blowing up parliament, and the tower's bells and pendulum are sounded with a final screech at the beginning of the explosion. The apparent "thirteen chimes" detailed above was also a major plot device in the Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons episode, "Big Ben Strikes Again". It has featured prominently in several animated Walt Disney films, including The Great Mouse Detective, Peter Pan and Cars 2.At the close of the polls for the 2010 General Election the results of the national exit poll were projected onto the south side of the Elizabeth Tower.On 27 July 2012, starting at 8:12 a.m, Big Ben chimed thirty times, to welcome in the London Olympic Games (i.e. the 30th Olympiad), which officially began that day.