Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the Great Clock of Westminster at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, England, and the name is frequently extended to refer also to the clock and the clock tower. The official name of the tower in which Big Ben is located was originally the Clock Tower, but it was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The anniversary of the tower is observed on 31 May. The tower was completed on 31 May 1859.
History of Big Ben
The construction of the clock tower began in 1834 and was completed on 31 May 1859. The tower was designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin and named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the Commissioner of Works at the time.
The Great Bell, also known as Big Ben, was cast in 1858. It weighs around 13.5 tons and is over 2.7 meters tall. It was installed in the tower and first chimed on July 11, 1859.
Originally, Big Ben referred only to the bell itself, but over time, it became the nickname for the entire clock tower. The Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben underwent a major renovation and restoration project in 2017. This includes repairs to the clock faces, the tower’s structure, and the mechanism that powers the clock and chimes. During this time, dials, hands, and lights were removed for restoration, with at least one dial – with its hands driven by an electric motor – left intact, functioning, and visible at any given time. A lift was also installed during this renovation.
Significance of Big Ben
Big Ben, or the Great Bell, is one of the most iconic symbols of the United Kingdom and a prominent landmark in London. The clock tower itself, officially known as the Elizabeth Tower, is located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Events at Big Ben
Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower have witnessed numerous significant events throughout history. Some notable events include:
- Timekeeping: Big Ben is renowned for its accurate timekeeping. It has been faithfully keeping time for over 160 years, serving as the official time reference for London.
- New Year Celebrations: The chimes of Big Ben are traditionally broadcast on radio and television to mark the arrival of the New Year in the United Kingdom. However, due to the ongoing renovations, the chimes have been temporarily silenced since 2017.
- Royal and National Events: The striking and majestic appearance of Big Ben has made it a backdrop for various royal and national events, including state processions, royal weddings, and public celebrations.