Think you’ve heard all there is to know about London’s Big Ben clock tower? If you thought it was simply a clock, then think again…
1. The real name of the tower that houses the clock is simply “The Clock Tower”. Big Ben is just the nickname given to the largest bell in the tower, formally known as “Great Bell”. However, since the nickname is much more recognizable, “Big Ben” has become much more commonly used.
2. According to a survey carried out in 2008, Big Ben is the UK’s most popular tourist attraction.
3. The Clock Tower is also known as Big Ben Tower, and is sometimes erroneously referred to as St. Stephen’s Tower. St Stephen’s Tower is actually found in the center of the west side of the Houses of Parliament, and acts as the public entrance.
4. Big Ben first chimed on the 31st of May, 1859.
5. A golden inscription, written in Latin, can be found at the base of each clock dial. It reads “Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostrum Victoriam Primam”, meaning “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First”.
6. The origin of the name “Big Ben” remains uncertain. Some believe that the Clock Tower was named after civil engineer and politician Benjamin Hall, who was very tall. Others believe the tower was named after heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt, an Englishman who won a tournament in the year the tower was at the center of a great debate in London.
7. Big Ben chimes every 15 minutes and the sound can be heard for a radius of up to 5 miles.
8. Whenever Parliament is in session, the Union Flag is flown from Victoria Tower.
9. The clock’s time is adjusted every year with an old British penny. If the clock is fast, a penny is added to the pendulum, and if the clock is slow, one is removed.
10. Finally, the history of Big Ben began with a problem. Its construction was marked by delays in delivery, budget issues and bureaucracy. Additionally, the tower was too small for the mechanical clock, and the 16.25 tonne bell broke the day after testing, so a replacement had to be very gently placed in the bell tower. The minute hand has also been changed twice, since it was too heavy to move around the clock face.
Now you know! If you’d like to visit Big Ben when you’re in town, we have the perfect London aparthotel for you to stay and enjoy this incredible city.