Every popular tourist city has its own recognizable symbol. For example, the statue of Christ the Redeemer is considered the hallmark of Rio de Janeiro . In London, these recognizable attractions are much more, but a special place among them is Big Ben, which is known to the whole world.
What is Big Ben
Despite the worldwide popularity of cult attractions in England, many people still mistakenly believe that the so-called neo-gothic tower with a four-sided clock, which is adjacent to the Palace of Westminster. In fact, this name is a thirteen-ton peg, which is located inside the tower behind the dial.
The official name of the main attraction of London – “Elizabeth Tower”. Such a building was received only in 2012, when the British Parliament made the appropriate decision. This was done in honor of the sixtieth anniversary of the queen’s rule. However, in the minds of tourists, the tower, the clock and the bell entrenched under the capacious and memorable name of Big Ben.
History of creation
The Palace of Westminster was built in the distant 11th century during the reign of Knud the Great. At the end of the 13th century, a clock tower was erected, which became part of the palace. It stood for 6 centuries and was destroyed on October 16, 1834 as a result of a fire. After 10 years, the parliament allocated money for the construction of a new tower on the neo-Gothic project of Augustus Pugin. In 1858, the tower was ready. The work of the talented architect was highly appreciated by customers and local residents.
The bell for the tower was built on the second try. The first version, which weighed 16 tons, cracked during technical tests. The burst dome melted down and made a smaller bell out of it. For the first time, London residents heard the ringing of a new bell on the last spring day of 1859.
However, a few months later, he burst again. This time, the London authorities did not melt the dome, and instead produced a light hammer for it. The 13-ton copper and tin alloy construction was turned to the hammer with the intact side. Since that time, the sound remains the same.
Interesting facts about Big Ben
There are many interesting facts and stories related to the main London landmark:
- The business name of the clock tower is practically unknown outside the country. All over the world it is called simply Big Ben.
- The total height of the structure with a spire is 96.3 m. This is higher than the Statue of Liberty in New York.
- Big Ben has become a symbol not only of London, but of the whole of Great Britain. Only Stonehenge can compete with him in popularity among tourists.
- Pictures with the image of the clock tower are often used in movies, TV shows and TV shows, when you need to indicate that it is happening in the UK.
- The structure has a slight slope towards the north-west. This is not visible to the naked eye.
- The five-ton clock mechanism inside the tower is the benchmark for reliability. Especially for him was developed a three-step course, which had never been used anywhere before.
- The clockwork was first launched on September 7, 1859.
- For 22 years since casting, Big Ben has been considered the largest and heaviest bell in the United Kingdom. However, in 1881, he handed the palm to the seventeen-ton “Big Floor”, which was placed in the Cathedral of St. Paul.
- Even in wartime, when London was heavily bombarded, the bell continued to operate. However, at this time the dial lights were turned off in order to protect the building from the pilots-bombers.
- Fans of statistics have calculated that the minute arrows of Big Ben travel a distance of 190 km per year.
- On New Year’s Eve, the Clock Tower of the Westminster Palace has the same function as the Clock Tower of the Moscow Kremlin. Residents and guests of London gather near it and await the chiming clock, which symbolizes the coming of the new year.
- The sound of the chiming clock is heard within a radius of 8 kilometers.
- Every year on November 11, at 11 o’clock in the afternoon, the chimes are beaten in memory of the end of the First World War.
- In honor of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, for the first time since 1952, the tower’s chimes did not work on schedule. In the morning of July 27, within three minutes, Big-Ben rang 40 times, informing residents and visitors of the city about the start of the Olympics.
- During World War I, the night illumination of the tower was turned off for two years and the bell was muffled. The authorities have decided to prevent the attacks of German zeppelins.
- The Second World War did not pass for the tower unnoticed. German bombers destroyed its roof and damaged several dials. However, this did not stop the clock mechanism. Since then, the clock tower has been associated with English reliability and accuracy.
- Because of the birds that sat on the hand, in 1949, the clock began to lag behind by four minutes.
- The size of the clock is amazing: the diameter of the dial is 7 m, and the length of the hands is 2.7 and 4.2 m. Due to this size, the London landmark has become the largest fighting clock with 4 dials at once.
- The introduction of the clock mechanism into operation was accompanied by problems that were associated with a lack of funding, inaccurate calculations and delays in the supply of materials.
- The photo of the tower is actively placed on T-shirts, mugs, key rings and other souvenirs.
- Any resident of London will tell you the address of Big Ben, as it is located in the historic district of Westminster, which is the center of the cultural and political life of the British capital.
- When meetings of the highest legislative body are held in the palace, the dials of the hours are illuminated with a characteristic backlight.
- The drawings of the tower are most often used in children’s books about England.
- On August 5, 1976, the first major failure of the clock mechanism occurred. Since that day, Big Ben has been silent for 9 months.
- In 2007, the clock stopped for 10 weeks for maintenance.
- The chime of the bell is used in the screensavers of some British radio and television broadcasts.
- Ordinary tourists can not climb the tower. But sometimes exceptions are made for the press and important guests. To go upstairs, a person needs to overcome 334 steps, which not everyone can do.
- The accuracy of the movement is adjusted by means of a coin, which is placed on the pendulum and slows it down.
- In addition to Big Ben, there are four small bells in the tower, which ring every 15 minutes.
- According to British media in 2017, the reconstruction of the main London astronomical clock laid 29 million pounds from the budget. This money was allocated for the repair of hours, the installation of an elevator in the tower and the improvement of the interior.
- For a time, the tower was used as a prison for members of parliament.
- Big Ben has his own Twitter account, in which hourly records of the following type are published: “BONG”, “BONG BONG”. The number of words “BONG” depends on the time of day. On Twitter, nearly half a million people follow the “battle” of the famous London bell.
- In 2013, Big Ben fell silent during the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.
Disputes around the name
There are a lot of rumors and stories around the name of the main attraction in London. One of the legends says that during a special meeting in which the name for the bell was chosen, the Honorable Lord Benjamin Hall jokingly offered to name the construction in his honor. Everyone laughed, but listened to the advice of Big Ben, who oversaw the construction.
Another legend has it that the iconic landmark was named after the heavyweight boxer Ben Kaant, who was named by boxing fans Big Ben. That is, the story gives a different description of how the bell got its name. Therefore, everyone decides which version is closer to him.