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Whether you want to know facts about Big Ben for your own enjoyment or an educational project, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite interesting facts about Big Ben so we can all make sure we’re on the same page about this famous clock tower!
For instance, did you know that “Big Ben” isn’t even its real name? Keep reading and I’ll share what it really is!
As a Londoner for the past 10 years, there’s nothing that leaves me in more awe than standing at the bottom and looking up, realizing that I’m within striking distance of one of the world’s most famous landmarks – it’s definitely something that London is most known for.
These 25 cool and fun facts about Big Ben in London, England, will make you see the tower in a whole new way.
After all, it’s not just a clock or a tower, but a piece of history – tolling through the centuries as the city changed and grew.
The moniker “Big Ben” is often used to refer to the Great Bell that resides within the tower.
It’s a common misconception that the entire tower is called Big Ben.
2. Official Name
Named the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, the tower’s name is a testament to her long reign.
3. Clock and Bell
The clock’s enormous size contributes to its impressive status.
Its four faces are each around 23 feet in diameter and are easily visible from a distance.
4. Great Bell
The Great Bell, nicknamed Big Ben, is a substantial cast iron bell that weighs approximately 13.5 tons.
It was cast in Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1858.
5. Clock Face Size
Each clock face is made up of 312 individual pieces of opal glass, providing a stunning and consistent appearance.
The construction of the tower was completed in 1859, as part of the extensive reconstruction of the Palace of Westminster following a fire in 1834.
The renowned architect Charles Barry was responsible for the iconic Gothic Revival design of the tower, which became an enduring symbol of British architecture.
8. Clock Mechanism
The clock’s remarkable accuracy is attributed to the design by Edmund Beckett Denison and the astronomical calculations of George Airy.
The Westminster Chimes, which resonate from the tower, play a sequence of four notes: E, G, A, and F.
This distinct melody has become synonymous with British culture.
10. Great Clock’s Accuracy
The clock’s pendulum rate is finely adjusted by adding or removing old pennies to ensure its accuracy.
This unique method of regulating the time keeps the clock on track.
11. Bell Cracks
The Great Bell cracked shortly after installation in 1859, possibly due to the hammer striking it too hard.
The cracks were repaired, but a second crack occurred during a test ring in 1976.
The extensive restoration project from 2017 aimed to conserve and restore the tower’s structure, as well as to upgrade its facilities for modern use.
13. Name Origins
The name “Big Ben” is often linked to Sir Benjamin Hall, a prominent figure overseeing the clock’s installation.
Another theory suggests it could have been inspired by heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt.
14. Sound Range
The powerful chimes of Big Ben can be heard over several miles, depending on factors like wind and weather conditions.
The tower’s clock faces are illuminated at night, ensuring that its presence remains visible and iconic even after dark.
16. Silencing During WWII
To prevent German bombers from using the chimes for navigation, Big Ben’s chimes were silenced during World War II.
The bells only rang for significant events or emergencies.
17. Golden Ratio
The tower’s architectural design incorporates the golden ratio, a mathematical proportion linked with pleasing aesthetics and balance.
18. Iconic Symbol
Big Ben has become synonymous with London and British culture, making appearances in films, TV shows, and other media around the world.
The Elizabeth Tower stands at a height of around 316 feet, including the spire, making it an impressive structure on the London skyline.
20. Copper Roof
The tower’s roof is crafted from copper, which has developed a characteristic greenish patina over the years due to exposure to the elements.
21. Ringing Schedule
The Great Bell chimes every hour, marking the passage of time.
It also chimes every quarter-hour with its familiar tune.
22. Musical Notes
The Westminster Chime sequence, F-A-C-E, marks the quarter-hours with a melody recognizable to many.
The restoration project aimed to conserve the tower’s historical significance while making it more sustainable and accessible for generations to come.
24. Tourist Attraction
The tower draws countless tourists who can partake in guided tours to explore its history, architecture, and the intricate mechanics of the clock.
25. Symbol of Resilience
Through various challenges and the passage of time, Big Ben remains a resilient and enduring symbol of London’s history, culture, and strength.