We all know that Big Ben as the chiming clock of the Palace of Westminster or the Houses of Parliament in London. The amazing Victorian Gothic style clock tower is the most famous landmark of London. Rather, one can say it represents the city of London. However, there is a misconception associated with it. Many people think that Big Ben refers either to the tower or the clocks. But actually, Big Ben is the name of main bell of the five bells that are there inside the tower. In fact, it is the largest among those five bells.
The first ever clock tower established at the Palace of Westminster was in 1288. Unfortunately, it was destroyed along with the old Palace of Westminster by the devastating fire that broke out on the fateful night of 16 October 1834. Then the chief architect of the palace Charles Barry was assigned with the contract of designing the palace and he included a clock tower in his designs. Thus, the credit for designing the Big Ben goes to Charles Barry while the cast iron dials of the clock were designed by Augustus Pugin.
The building of the tower was completed in 1856. The lower part of the tower is made of brick and stones and the upper part is made from cast iron. The spire of the tower consists of an iron frame that provides support to the heavy bells. The hour bell of the clock is named Big Ben, but its remaining four quarter bells are nameless. It is said that Big Ben got its name after Sir Benjamin Hall who was the Commissioners of Works and was famous for his bulky body.
The Big Ben is the largest chiming bell of the world. The height of the clock tower, where it is located is 316 feet and it took 13 long years to build it. The tower is slightly leaned (8.66 inches) towards northwest direction. Its inner volume is 4,650 cubic meters.
The diameter is 8 feet and it weighs 13.5 tons which is almost the same as that of a small elephant! The giant structure of Big Ben was built at Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in East London by George Mears. It was cast on 10th April 1858. It took almost two weeks to cool down. Then it was transported to the Westminster Palace by a horse-drawn carriage.
The four faces of the clock are at a height of 55 meters above the ground and the diameter of each of the dials is 23 feet. There is a Latin inscription with gold letters at the base of all the four clocks of the tower: "DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM". This means, "O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First".
The Big Ben chimed for the first time on 11th July 1859. The chimes were first broadcast by BBC radio on the New Year's Eve of 1923. Over the years, the sound became well-known to the BBC World Service listeners all across the world. Till date, it continues to be the focus of the New Year celebrations in the UK.
After reading all these exciting facts that we have shared in this article, you know that it is one destination you do not want to miss while sightseeing in London. In fact, it is one of the most famous tourist attractions of the world. However, you can see the tower ONLY from outside. General public is prohibited from getting inside the tower due to security reasons.