An international symbol of the city of London and an imposing bell rises above the Palace of Westminster: the Big Ben. Contrary to popular belief, the term Big Ben refers only to the bell and not the whole tower. Here is some information you probably do not know about the most famous clock in England.
The famous Westminster Palace, English House of Parliament, has a great tower. This 96-meter tower, commonly known as the Clock Tower or St. Stephen’s Tower, was renamed « Elizabeth Tower » in 2012 to immortalize 60 years of reign of the Queen of England. At the summit, 4 imposing clocks of 7 meters in diameter each. The main bell weighs 13.5 tons, measures 2.2 meters high and sounds a reasoning sound up to 6 kilometers round! The bell tower, composed of 4 bells, sang for the first time on May 31, 1859.
In 1834, the former Westminster Palace was totally destroyed by a gigantic fire. When it was rebuilt, the famous Clock Tower was added. The Londoners wanted to keep the original bell weighing 16 tons; 16 horses were used to bring Big Ben to Westminster. Unfortunately, when they wanted to test it, it cracked … It was then that was built the Big Ben that we know today. Anatomically, the new Big Ben is different. The sound produced is not exactly the same as the old, which did not bother the people of London.
Why this bell is called Big Ben?
The real reason remains unknown … However, two hypotheses stand out. The first refers to Benjamin Hall, civil engineer and politician. He gave the order to build a bell for the palace. Because of its strong build and nickname « Ben », they would have called this bell Big Ben. The second hypothesis comes from a homage paid to an 1850 heavyweight boxing champion named Ben Caunt.
The carillon air, played every hour, is called the Westminster Quarters.
For more than 150 years, Big Ben has been the pride of the city. His carillon, broadcast live on the BBC at the New Year, is known around the world. His tone is special due to the appearance of a crack at the very spot where the hammer struck. The reorientation of the bell allowed giving this unique sound. Proudly standing over London, unshakeable during the bombing of the Second World War, Big Ben has not ceased to rock the days of Londoners.