Big Ben – One of the iconic sights of London

Big Ben - One of the iconic sights of London

Big Ben is one of the iconic sights of London. But what exactly is Big Ben?  Everyone tends to think of the clock tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, home of the Houses of Parliament.  This is not actually Big Ben!  You can hear Big Ben but not see it.  Big Ben is the great bell with it's a distinctive sound that announces the hour. For an interesting and exciting tour to the Big Ben, you can choose to stay at any serviced apartments in London and you will love it.

It is a sound that is recognized worldwide.  In the Second World War, the chimes were used as a symbol of resistance within Europe.  Big Ben is always the focus of New Year celebrations, with radio and TV tuning into its chimes to welcome the New Year.  It's chiming also mark Remembrance Day, ringing out at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month as it did at the end of the First World War.  Now it marks the time when British people hold a minute’s silence to remember all those who have died in the war.  

So where does the name Big Ben come from?  No one knows for certain – but it is generally thought to be either Sir Benjamin Hall, the first commissioner of Works at the Houses of Parliament and was involved in the installation of the bell. He was often known in the House as Big Ben. The other theory relates to a popular boxing champion of the time – Benjamin Caunt who was also known as Big Ben.

The tower itself is actually named the Elizabeth Tower.  Built in 1859, it is 320 feet high. It is a long walk to the top of the tower. There are no lifts, just 399 winding steps.  The clock itself is the largest four-faced clock in the world, with faces that are 7metres in diameter.


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Keeping accurate time is the task of the clock specialist. He regularly climbs up to the tower to check the time and momentum of the pendulum.  Adjusting the time is done very simply – by using pennies!  Only pre-decimal pennies can be used as they are the only ones which have the right weight.  Adding one penny to the pile makes the clock gain exactly two-fifths of a second every twenty-four hours.

The Bell is massive.  This was the biggest bell ever to be cast in England. It weighs 13.7 tonnes and is 2.2 meters high.  A hammer strikes the bell on its outside rim to sound the hour.

Tours of the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben are currently suspended while restoration work on the Tower is underway. The next tours are likely to be in 2020 – and anyone planning to take those tours will have to book well in advance as only a limited number of tours take place each week, and space is very limited. Most visitors prefer staying at any of the London aparthotels, simply because there is just so much to see and do in this wonderful city.

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