Big Ben, one of London’s most famous icons, is located in the tower of the Palace of Westminster which includes The Houses of Parliament, The House of Lords, The House of Commons and Westminster Hall.
Big Ben in London is actually the nickname of the 13 tonne bell situated at the top of the tower though it is often extended to include the clock and the clock tower. The tower was built in 1288 and the bell rang out its first chime on 31 May 1859. It is the World’s biggest four-faced chiming clock as well as the third-tallest free-standing clock tower.
Interestingly, the clock tower is not open to overseas visitors, however UK residents can arrange a tour although it does entail walking up 334 steps to get to the top as there is no lift.
Augustus Pugin designed the clock and dials which incorporate 312 portions of opal glass and each side of the clock has a Latin inscription which denotes ‘O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.’
Renowned for its reliability, London’s iconic clock ran accurately on time during heavy bombing during the Blitz even with two damaged clock faces. The clock faces were darkened at night during the World Wars I and II to prevent attack. The only time Big Ben has had a major breakdown was on 5 August 1976 when it was taken out of service for 26 days over nine months. In August 2007, London’s this clock had six long weeks of maintenance to replace the bearings in its drive train and ‘great bell’ striker.
Big Ben is a popular icon for London and the UK. The image and the chimes are used by ITN’s News at Ten, ITV News bulletins, BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. London’s historic clock of course, also plays a very important role during the New Year’s Eve countdown and celebrations when all eyes turn to the clock.
On May 2009, Big Ben London celebrated its 150th anniversary and we look forward to another 150 years of accurate time and chimes.