40 things you probably didn’t know about Big Ben

40 things you probably didn’t know about Big Ben

jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG  Thursday 12th August 2021


 40 things you probably didn’t know about Big Ben

Big Ben, the Great Bell of Elizabeth Tower in central London, is currently silenced as restoration work on the structure takes place (it is due to regularly chime again in 2022).

While scaffolding obscures the landmark, here are 40 facts for your arsenal about London’s beloved icon.

  1. Tourists and locals alike often say “Big Ben” when referring to the landmark tower at the Houses of Parliament. But that’s not quite accurate.

Formerly known as the Clock Tower, the structure was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012, in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It is the bell within that is named Big Ben.

  1. It is believed Big Ben was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, First Commissioner for Works, whose name is inscribed on the bell. Others attest that the bell was named after Ben Caunt, a champion heavyweight boxer.


  1. Warners of Norton near Stockton-on-Tees cast a bell for the tower in August 1856.


  1. The bell was originally meant to be called Royal Victoria.


  1. A great sense of ceremony surrounded Big Ben’s arrival in London. It was brought down the Thames by barge and then taken across Westminster Bridge by a carriage drawn by 16 white horses.


  1. That bell cracked during testing in October 1857. A second replacement bell was cast by George Mears at London’s Whitechapel Foundry in April 1858.


  1. That bell broke too. A crack developed in 1859 but the problem was solved when the bell was turned a quarter clockwise and chimed with a lighter hammer.


  1. Having operated from the same Whitechapel Road premises since 1738, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry sadly ceased trading in May 2017.


a large clock on the side of a building: The five-year building work should end next year – Justin Tallis/AFP© Provided by The Telegraph The five-year building work should end next year – Justin Tallis/AFP

  1. Big Ben chimed for the first time on July 11, 1859 but it would not ring for long. That September, a crack caused it to fall silent for four years. It has since been quietened on other occasions. For seven weeks in 2007 its chimes were snuffed out so repairs could be made. It also fell silent during nine months of repairs in 1976.


  1. The BBC first broadcast Big Ben’s chimes to the country during a New Year’s Eve radio broadcast in 1923.


  1. The bell’s strikes were broadcast internationally for the first time in 1932, during King George V’s Christmas broadcast on the Empire Service (later the World Service).


  1. Big Ben and its chimes illustrate the difference between the speed of light and sound. Stand by the base of the Elizabeth Tower and you’ll hear the bell’s chimes about one-sixth of a second after the bell is struck. Those listening to a live transmission of the bell by radio, however, will hear the bells before you.


  1. In 1940 the Silent Minute was introduced. Before the 9pm BBC radio news was broadcast each night, members of the public were encouraged to dedicate silent contemplation and prayer to those on the battlefields, for the 60 seconds that Big Ben would chime.


  1. The bell has again fallen silent. In 2017, extensive repair, conservation and refurbishment works begun and over certain months the clock mechanism has to be stopped, with exceptions being made for important events such as London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations and Remembrance Day. But probably not for Brexit day.


  1. Opportunities to admire the Elizabeth Tower are currently diminished too; scaffolding shrouds the tower.


  1. The Elizabeth Tower stands 315ft (96 metres) tall and has 11 floors.


  1. Its foundation stone was laid on September 28, 1843 and its foundations were dug 10ft (3 metres) deep.


  1. Its construction required 850 cubic metres of stone and 2,600 cubic metres of bricks, with building materials coming from Anston in Yorkshire; Caen in France; and Clipsham in Rutland (for restoration work that was carried out between 1983 and 1985).


  1. Its construction fell five years behind schedule and wasn’t completed until 1859.


  1. The 150th anniversary of the Elizabeth Tower, the Great Clock and Big Ben was celebrated in 2009. So far, Big Ben has rung through the reigns of six monarchs.


  1. Big Ben weighs 13.7 tonnes, stands 7.2ft (2.2 metres) tall and has a diameter of 8.9ft (2.7 metres). The hammer weighs 200kg.


  1. The musical note it makes when struck is E.


  1. There are four smaller bells beneath Big Ben that ring on the ‘quarter’ hours. They strike the notes G sharp, F sharp, E and B.


  1. Currently ascending the Elizabeth Tower to see Big Ben necessitates walking up 334 steps to the belfry (and a total of 399 to the lantern or Ayrton Light above it).


  1. The renovation work will provide the tower with its first toilet.


  1. The tower leans. It has an inclination of about 1/250 (0.04 degrees) – just about noticeable to passersby who take the time to study its exterior closely.


  1. The clock face has recently had a colour swap from black to blue in keeping with its original design. The hands and detailing were blue when it was built in 1859, but London’s smog and grime gradually turned it black, so in the 1980s, the last time it got a new coating, it was painted black to avoid discolouration.


  1. Each clock face is 23ft (seven metres) in diameter and composed of around 312 sections of opal glass. An hour hand is 9.2ft (2.8m) in length; a minute hand is 14ft (4.3m).


  1. Each clock dial is illuminated by 28 energy-efficient bulbs at 85 watts each; each bulb has a lifetime of 60,000 hours.


  1. You can tell when parliament is in session by looking at the clock face. Set above it, the Ayrton Light is illuminated during that time.


  1. The latin words under the clockface read Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostram Victoriam Primam, which means “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First”


  1. From 1939 to April 1945, the clock dials were unlit in compliance with wartime blackout rules.


  1. On the night of May 10, 1941 a German aircraft released a bomb that hit the top of the clock tower. Ornamental ironwork and stonework was destroyed but attempts to destroy it completely were thankfully unsuccessful.


  1. The clock itself is accurate to within one second.


  1. The clock was designed by Edmund Beckett Denison and Edward Dent. Surprisingly, Beckett Denison trained as a lawyer rather than as a clockmaker.


  1. The Elizabeth Tower is one of London’s most enduringly famous film and television stars. It has featured in the likes of 28 Days Later, V for Vendetta, Lost, Doctor Who, Thunderball and Mary Poppins.


  1. The idiom of putting a penny on, with the meaning of slowing down, sprang from the method of fine-tuning the clock’s pendulum.


  1. Adding or subtracting old penny coins from a pile on the pendulum has the effect of minutely altering the rate at which the pendulum swings. A single penny will change the clock’s speed by two fifths of one second per day.


  1. The clock face’s time has been altered in other ways. In 1944, a flock of starlings rested on one of the hands and were sufficiently heavy in weight to slow the time-keeping mechanism. On New Year’s Eve 1962, meanwhile, heavy snow and ice caused Big Ben to chime in the New Year 10 minutes late.


  1. Tourists who want to admire the clock tower close up might need to make do with Little Ben in Victoria. A 20ft (6m) metal replica of the Elizabeth Tower, it features a working clock but is a sombre black rather than the original’s golden hue.


John O’Ceallaigh


The TOP FIVE Most Stubborn Signs of the Zodiac

1) Taurus

(April 20 – May 20)

Taurus is uncontrollable

When it comes to standing their ground, nobody does it better than a Taurus. Like their namesake, they are persistent and reliable people that like working at their own pace, reacting badly when commanded by other people. While this is certainly beneficial for personal projects, a Taurus’ uncompromising nature often leads them to hold onto negative aspects of life which do them more harm than good.


2) Leo

(July 23 – August 22)

Leo is often too arrogant to change their mind

This proud sign knows exactly how much it is worth, so it won’t compromise with you but will simply walk away if it feels that it’s being undervalued. While Leos are generous and warm-hearted people, they do often have an inflated sense of ego which can inhibit group decision making, as they assume they always have the best judgement. Even though they never intend to harm loved ones, their self-centred actions often occur at someone else’s detriment, but Leo can’t see this.


3) Scorpio

(October 23 – November 21)

Scorpio is way too impassioned

Unsurprisingly the last of the fixed signs rounds up the top 3 in this list, as Scorpio takes third for their stubborn natures. While the stubborn attitudes of Taurus and Leo are a result of aversion to change and ego, respectively, Scorpio’s unrelenting stance comes from a place of passion. Once they’ve added emotional significance to a position on a issue, they won’t let go off their dogmatic stance, making them one of the more difficult zodiac signs to get on with if you ever butt heads.


4) Aquarius

(January 20 – February 18)

Aquarius is downright controversial

The rebels of the horoscope, Aquarius loves going against the status quo and standing their ground, often in the face of criticism. Arguably the most independent zodiac sign, Aquarius concern themselves with progressive, radical and often controversial ideas that typically contradict widely accepted beliefs. This zodiac lives up to its label as a critical personality when their alternative ideas are justifiably challenged, often becoming aloof, harsh and condescending.


5) Aries

(March 21 – April 19) .

Aries is defiant

Once an Aries has made their mind up about doing something, don’t expect them to change their minds. Everything is a competition for them, even if they’re only competing against themselves. Even (and especially) if something seems difficult or improbable, an Aries will hold their ground. Being ambitious is important trait for self-improvement, but sometimes looking at the facts objectively would make life easier both for this demanding sign and those surrounding them.

REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

– Nicolas Chamfort



Maybe this world is another planets hell. -Aldous Huxley


Happiness is…being an Aries Ram.



Love is…someone who is prepared to carry you when the going gets tough.


A time for Big Ben to BONG!…A time for Big Ben not to BONG!


11th August

1949 Big Ben ran at its slowest for 90 years as flocks of starlings took roost on the minute hands, slowing it by four and a half minutes.

1865 Joseph Lister became the first doctor to use disinfectant during surgery.

1848 The death of George Stephenson English civil engineer and mechanical engineer who built the first public inter-city railway line in the world to use steam locomotives, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway which opened in 1830.


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Reflections of a Top Hit Record

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©2021 Phil M Robinson