Interesting Facts About Big Ben

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Big Ben is one of London’s most famous and iconic landmarks. The name Big Ben originally belongs to the great bell only, though it is generally used in reference to the tower and the clock as well. The tower which houses the clock and Big Ben is known as Elizabeth tower and is located towards the north end of the Houses of Parliament. The clock is officially named the Great Clock.

1. The official name of Big Ben is the Great Bell. The name Big Ben is a nickname and has two theories attached to its origins. The first theory is that it is named after Sir Benjamin Hall who was the first Commissioner for Works from 1855 to 1858. The second theory states that it is named after Ben Caunt, a champion heavyweight boxer in the 1850s. The first theory is generally considered to be the more likely.

2. Big Ben had to be cast twice before it could be installed in the tower in its present location, the Belfry. The bell was cast for the first time on 17th August 1856 by John Warner and Sons of Norton near Stockton-on-Tees. While being tested, it developed a crack measuring nearly 1.2 meters. A new bell was cast on 10th April 1858 by George Mears at the Whitechapel Foundry.

3. To be placed at the belfry the great bell could not be pulled up vertically in tower’s shaft as it was too big to fit in. So it was turned to its side and hoisted up. The entire process took 30 hours in October 1858. There are four other quarter bells in the belfry which chime at the quarter hour.

4. Big Ben rang out for the first time in the tower on 11th July 1859. But in September the same year it developed a crack. A solution to this problem was finally found four years later in 1863. This is the maximum time the bell has remained silent at a stretch.

In 1863 the Big Ben was turned a quarter turn so that the hammer could strike at an undamaged spot. The hammer was also replaced by a lighter version. A square had to be cut in the bell to contain the crack. The crack is still present on the bell.

6. The cost of making and installing Big Ben, other four bells quarter bells and the clock in the Elizabeth Tower is said estimated to be £ 22,000.

7. Big Ben weighs 13.7 tonnes which is equivalent to the weight of an elephant. The width of the bell at 2.7 meters is more than its height which is 2.2 meters. The Elizabeth Tower is 96 meters high and has 334 steps leading up to the belfry. It takes almost half an hour for a fit person to climb up to the bell.

8. Big Ben is struck by a hammer from outside and its chimes can be heard at a distance of nine miles. Its chimes were broadcast on BBC radio for the first time in 1923 on New Year’s Eve and have become a tradition which is being followed till date.

9. The Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower tours are open only to UK residents and are free of cost. The tour has to be arranged through the resident’s local Member of Parliament or a member of House of Lords. This tour is not available for overseas visitors.

Due to the design of the spiral steps, visitors to Big Ben are not allowed to wear open toe sandals without heel straps, high heeled footwear, flip-flops or climb bare footed.

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