Big Ben is one of the most important landmark in United Kingdom.
It is situated at Palace of Westminster(North end) in London.
Official name of the clock – The Great Westminster Clock.
Renamed as Elizabeth Tower in July , 2012 to celebrate 86 years old Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee of reign.
Big Ben originally named after Sir Benjamin Hall who was the first Commissioner of Works. He was nicknamed as “Big Ben” by fellow members of the Parliament. Some historians believe that heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt was very much popular and it was named after him.
Big Ben was the largest bell in United Kingdom up to 1881 (St Paul’s Cathedral bell was installed in that year which was 16.8 tons).
Its inner volume is 164,200 cubic feet or 4,650 cubic meters.
Clock started -31 May 1859
Augustus Pugin designed Clock and Dials.
Big Ben Clock Tower height is 317 feet.
312 pieces of glasses ( in each dial) are supported by iron frame.
The Clock tower leans about 9 inch towards North-West direction.
Big Ben History
In 1834, when the Palace of Westminster destroyed (by fire) a new Parliament House was built in Neo-gothic style (1844) and it was decided to include a bell with a tower. John Warner & Sons made first bell on 6 August 1856 and it was weighed more than 16 tons and placed in New Palace Yard because Clock tower was not ready. However when the tower ready, 16 horses (in 1858) were drawn trolley carrying Big Ben. But unfortunately the bell was cracked down and repair was impossible. Whitechapel Bell Foundry ordered to recast the bell and they melted down the metal and completed it on 31 May 1859 (it weighed then 13.75 ton).
Officially Big Ben first chimed in July, 1859. Again in September, it was cracked by Denison (Chief Engineer) as he used hammer which was twice the maximum specified weight.
To prevent another incidence in future lighter hammer was fitted.
Few Facts About Clock
Its clock diameter is almost 7 meters and it has 4 dials (wider horizontally)
Four Faces are 55 meters above the ground.
Minute hand was made of copper and it weighs more than 100 kilograms and length is 425 cm.
Hour hand was made of gun metal and weighs more than 300 kilograms and length is 270 cm.
Each figure of hour is about 60 cm or 2 ft and made by iron.
Mechanism of Big Ben
It was tough challenge for Edward John Dent to run this giant clock accurately. After his death in 1952, his nephew Denison was appointed in his place and he invented a new technique (Gravity Escapement)
Each pendulum is 310 kg and 440 cm in length and it beat for 2 seconds.
Pre –decimal pennies are used to adjust it’s time. If 1 penny added, clock gained 400 milliseconds in 24 hours.
Bell is chimed by hammers (weights 200 kg) which are fixed and hit from outside
Another Few interesting facts
Foreign tourists cannot go inside the tower of Big Ben but UK people can with the permission from their parliamentary representatives.
Total 334 steps to bell and 393 steps to top lantern.
Its bell color is grey.
One light illuminated when parliament is in session.
Total 28 bulbs illuminate (85 watts) 4 face of this clock.
Each minute hands travelled almost 200 kilometers every year.
DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM
Which means O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.
it is written at base of dials.
BBC first broadcast chimes of Big Ben on New Year Eve of 1924.
In 1916 , Big Ben was silenced for 2 years to prevent German attack.
1 September 1939, Clock faces were in dark.
31 st December, 1961 clock was slow down by heavy snow.
5th August 1976, major breakdown by wind occurred and it was shut down for 26 days ( throughout 9 months for maintenance work)
27th May 2005, high temperature in London ( 32 degree Celsius ) stopped this for about 90 minutes.
29 October 2005, was shut down for 33 hours for maintenance .
11 August 2007 – 6 weeks manual mechanism to run this clock was on hold and a motor installed to run it.
The hammer replaced in that time.
You may have noticed that I don’t mention Big Ben was stopped or attacked during World War 2