25 Amazing Facts about Big Ben (surprising!)

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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.

If you’re looking for more London facts, check out the fun facts about Big Ben and fun facts about the London Eye.

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1. Nickname

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.

6. Construction

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.

7. Designer

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.

9. Chiming

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.

Ben Ben seen from above and over the river

12. Scaffolding

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.

15. Illumination

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.

19. Height

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.

23. Conservation

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.

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