Famous landmarks in London England
What is Big Ben?
The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, commonly called Big Ben, are among London's most iconic landmarks and must-see London attractions. Technically, Big Ben is the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons (13, 760 kg). The clock tower looks spectacular at night when the four clock faces are illuminated.
Big Ben Facts
- Each dial is seven metres in diameter
- The minute hands are 4.2 metres long (14ft) and weigh about 100kg (220lbs, including counterweights)
- The numbers are approximately 60cm (23in) long
- There are 312 pieces of glass in each clock dial
- A special light above the clock faces is illuminated when parliament is in session
- Big Ben's timekeeping is strictly regulated by a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum.
- Big Ben has rarely stopped. Even after a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during the Second World War, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to strike the hours.
- The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC on 31 December 1923, a tradition that continues to this day.
- The latin words under the clockface read DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM, which means "O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First"
- In June 2012 the House of Commons announced that the clock tower was to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.
When was Big Ben Built?
The Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834. In 1844, it was decided the new buildings for the Houses of Parliament should include a tower and a clock.
A massive bell was required and the first attempt (made by John Warner & Sons at Stockton-on-Tees) cracked irreparably. The metal was melted down and the bell recast in Whitechapel in 1858. Big Ben first rang across Westminster on 31 May 1859. A short time later, in September 1859, Big Ben cracked. A lighter hammer was fitted and the bell rotated to present an undamaged section to the hammer. This is the bell as we hear it today.
How Tall is Big Ben?
Elizabeth Tower stands at over 96 metres (105yrds) tall, with 334 steps to climb up to the belfry and 399 steps to the Ayrton Light at the very top of the tower.
Where is Big Ben?
Big Ben is found in the Elizabeth Tower at the north end of The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, Central London, next to the river Thames.