Parliament's Clock Towers
On Parliament grounds there have been two clock towers before Big Ben. The original one was built in 1288. This clock tower was then replaced by a second one in 1367, which fell into disrepair and was later torn down
In 1834 a fire destroyed most of the Palace of Westminster. Architects were invited to submit designs for the new buildings and grounds. Out of 97 submitted designs, Sir Charles Barry's won. However the original winning design did not include a new clock tower. One was added to the design in 1836.
The great bell
Big Ben is the nickname of the Elizabeth Tower's hour bell. The nickname has grown to refer to the whole tower. The official name of the bell is The Great Bell. the melody that the quarter bells chime are called the Westminster Chimes.
History of the Great Bell
The first bell made for the tower was cast in the August of 1856. After being transported the bell was hung in New Palace Yard where it was tested each day until October 17, 1857, when a 1.2m crack appeared. The first bell was broken apart and recast to be used to make the new bell. The new bell was cast on April 10th 1858.
The new bell weighed 13.5 tons. The bell was too large to fit up the tower vertically. the bell had to be turned on its side and winched up into the belfry over a period of 30 hours. The bell was placed in the belfry on October 1858, along with the four quarter bells, which were already in place.
In September 1859 the new bell cracked and was silent for four years. During that time period the hour was struck on the largest quarter bell. In 1863 a solution was found by Sir George Airy. The solution was that the Great Bell would be turned by a quarter turn, have the hammer replaced by a lighter version, and have a small square cut out of the bell in order to stop the crack from increasing in size.