What is Big Ben?

big ben

image source: wikimedia commons

Big Ben is the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament in London.

It weighs more than 14 tonnes, and has four faces that are illuminated at night. Each of the dials is 7 metres in diameter, and the minute hands are four and a half metres long. Big Ben was the world’s largest clock when it was installed in the middle of the 19th century. The name Big Ben actually refers to the clock’s hour bell, the largest of the clock’s five bells. The other four are used as quarter bells.

The clock has rarely stopped. Even after a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during World War II, the clock tower survived.

Big Ben first rang across Westminster on 31st May 1859, and the chimes were first broadcast by the BBC on 31st December 1923, a tradition that continues to this day.