Hello everyone! This is the first blog post on our new blog series that covers iconic and famous clocks from around the world. This post will outline the history of the iconic Big Ben clock tower in London, England.
Big Ben is actually a nickname for the Great Bell of the clock tower located at the northern portion of the Palace of Westminster in London, England.1 However, the Big Ben nickname is also used to reference the clock tower itself.1 The clock in Big Ben is the world’s “second largest four faced chiming clock".1 In contrast, the world’s largest four faced chiming clock is located in Minneapolis City Hall.1
The Big Ben clock tower is 315 feet high and has 334 internal limestone stairs that must be climbed to get to the top.1 The clock dials are located 180 feet above ground level.1 Unfortunately, the inside of the clock tower is not open to tourists.1
The Big Ben tower is officially known as the Elizabeth Tower and was constructed as part of a project to build a new Westminster Palace after a fire destroyed a large portion of the previous palace on October 16, 1834.1 Charles Barry was the architect behind the design of the new Westminster Palace after the fire; but Augustus Pugin was responsible for the design of the clock tower.1 Pugin’s designs and the Big Ben are based on his Gothic Revival style.1
Photo of Clock Tower by David Iliff. No changes made.
Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Ben#/media/File:Clock_Tower_-_Palace_of_Westminster,_London_-_May_2007.jpg
The dials of the clock “are set in an iron frame 23 feet (7.0 m) in diameter”1 and house 312 pieces of glass.1 The base of each dial bears the Latin script “DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM”1, which translates as “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First”1.
Photo of the Dial of the Great Clock of Westminster. Photo by Wikipedia User Colin. No changes made.
Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Ben#/media/File:Big_Ben_Clock_Face.jpg
Photo of the Big Ben Clock Mechanism. Photo by Paulobrad. No changes made.
Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Ben#/media/File:Big_Ben_clock_mechanism.jpg
The clock located in Big Ben is incredibly reliable.1 However, there have been a few circumstances where the clock has malfunctioned or experienced issues. For example, in 1949, a number of starling birds rested on the minute hand, slowing the clock by four and a half minutes.1 On New Year’s Eve in 1962, heavy snow on the hour hand forced the clock to chime 10 minutes late after the New Year.1
We hope you enjoyed learning about the history of the Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) clock tower! We will continue our blog series on iconic and famous clocks from around the world so keep checking back!
-The Largewallclocks.net Team
1. Wikipedia. Big Ben. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Ben