Big Ben is the nickname for the bell of the clock at the end of the Palace of Westminster, London.
The Clock Tower was officially named the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth ll. The Tower is home to the second largest four faced chiming clock in the world, after Minneapolis City Hall, USA.
The original Clock Tower dates back to 1859 and has become one of London’s most iconic landmarks. Charles Barry was the chief architect for the building of Big Ben which is 315 feet high and was designed in Gothic Revival style.
The clock was designed by Augustus Pugin. The clock and dials are set in an iron frame, 23 feet in diameter, supporting 312 pieces of opal glass similar to a stained glass window style.
At the base of each clock dial are the words: ‘DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM’ – Latin for ‘Oh Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.’
The Tower is not open to overseas residents, although UK residents can arrange tours through their Member of Parliament (with plenty of notice). No lift exists in the Tower which has 334 steps up to the top.
Tours are free but are by prior arrangement only. For more information about Big Ben Tours, see the official Big Ben site.
Big Ben has rarely stopped. Even after a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during the Second World War, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to strike the hours. The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC on New Year’s Eve 1923.
Big Ben is only a 13 minute bus ride from the West End and central London. Alternatively Big Ben is accessible from all over London by tube. The nearest tube stations are: Westminster Tube Station (2 minutes away) and St James Park Tube Station (8 minutes).
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If you are planning to visit Big Ben, why not combine your trip with a tour of the Houses of Parliament? Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and Parliament Square are also closeby. If you want to wet your whistle, pop into St Stephen’s Tavern opposite Big Ben. Take a River Thames boat trip and see a host of London’s most famous landmarks from the water.
On 10 May 1941, a German bombing raid damaged two of the clock's dials and sections of the tower's stepped roof and destroyed the House of Commons chamber. Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed a new five-floor block. Despite the heavy bombing the clock ran accurately and chimed throughout the Blitz.
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