The Biggest of Ben’s: Building Big Ben

by | Mar 1, 2024 | News | 0 comments

Nestled along the picturesque River Thames, the iconic Big Ben stands as a symbol of London’s rich history and timeless elegance. This legendary clock tower, officially known as the Elizabeth Tower, has become an integral part of the city’s skyline and a global symbol of British culture. Let’s delve into the fascinating history of Big Ben, exploring its origins, construction, and the indelible mark it has left on the world.

big ben being built

The Birth of Big Ben

Big Ben’s story begins in the 19th century when the British Parliament decided to rebuild the Palace of Westminster after a devastating fire in 1834. Sir Charles Barry won the architectural competition to design the new structure, and Augustus Pugin joined him to create the intricate Gothic detailing. However, the clock tower itself was not initially part of the plan.

It was only later, in 1856, that the idea for a clock tower was introduced. The clock’s construction was entrusted to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and the task of designing the clock mechanism was assigned to the talented clockmaker Edmund Beckett Denison. The result of this collaboration would become the iconic timekeeper we now know as Big Ben.

Edmund Beckett Denison
bell in bell tower

The Great Bell and Its Chimes

The massive clock’s heartbeat is the Great Bell, often referred to as Big Ben, although that name technically belongs to the largest of the five bells. Cast in 1858, the Great Bell weighs a staggering 13.7 tons. Transporting the bell to Westminster was a logistical challenge of its own, involving a specially built carriage and a journey by barge up the Thames.

The clock’s chimes have become famous worldwide, and the melodic sequence of the Westminster Quarters has marked the passage of time for over a century. The distinct chime, consisting of four notes, has become synonymous with London and is instantly recognizable.

Big Ben chiming on New Years Eve
big ben in world war 2

The Tower’s Resilience

Despite enduring the ravages of time and facing the destruction of nearby buildings during World War II, the Elizabeth Tower, including Big Ben, has stood resilient. Miraculously, the clock tower escaped significant damage during the Blitz, a testament to its durability and the craftsmanship of its builders.

A Global Icon

Big Ben’s resonance extends beyond its architectural and historical significance. It has played a role in numerous films, documentaries, and news broadcasts, becoming a symbol of London and the United Kingdom. The tower’s striking appearance and the melodious chimes make it a must-see attraction for millions of tourists each year.

big ben global icon

As we reflect on the storied history of Big Ben, it becomes clear that this iconic clock tower is more than just a timekeeping device – it’s a living testament to the enduring spirit of London. From its humble beginnings to its status as a global symbol, Big Ben stands tall as a reminder of the rich history, craftsmanship, and resilience that define this beloved landmark. As the chimes echo through time, Big Ben remains an everlasting witness to the evolution of a city and a nation.

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