Big Ben by Sarah edler


The famous clock tower, commonly known as Big Ben, is located in London, in the area called the City of Westminster. The Clock Tower stands at the north end of the Houses of Parliament. The Houses of Parliament are also known as the Palace of Westminster.

Palace of Westminster


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

A Fire

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.

Big Ben and the London Eye (top), Parliament fire of 1834 (bottom left), Big Ben's clock face at night (bottom right).

Construction of the Elizabeth tower

The construction of the Elizabeth Tower began on September 1843. Materials used for the construction of the tower came from all over the United Kingdom, and were transported by river. The foundation was dug 3 meters deep and the foundation stones were laid during the September of 1843. The tower was built from the inside out, with materials being lifted by a winch to the masons and bricklayers. The entire building was completed in 1859, five years behind schedule.

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.

The Great Westminster Clock

The official name of the clock inside the tower is the Great Westminster Clock. The clock was designed by Edmund Beckett Denison, who worked with Edward Dent. The clock mechanism was installed in 1859.

How the Clock Works

The clock works by having the clock engineers wind the cables three times a week, and as gravity pulls the weights down, the trains rotate. Their rotation is regulated by the escapement and the swinging pendulum. As long as the cables are properly wound the clock will keep working.

The Great Westminster Clock


In early 2017 the Elizabeth Tower is going to be closed from visitors as essential restoration and maintenance is done to the clock and exterior of the tower. During this time the Great Bell will not ring, with the exception of Remembrance Day and New Years Eve. The clock will also be stopped for certain periods when it will be maintained. The restoration is planned to take three years.

Workers cleaning the clock face.

Annually other restoration has to be done. Every five years workers go out onto the clock faces from the belfry, with soap and water to clean each face. In 1976 the clock was stopped for nine months and was stopped again in 2007 for six weeks.

Fun Facts

  • the clock tower is neo-gothic style.
  • The clock is 158 years old.
  • From the ground to the belfry there are 334 steps.
  • Until recently when the tower was named the Elizabeth Tower, its official name was, "The Clock Tower".
  • The Great bell is made of tin and copper, plus pieces of the first bell.
  • The Great Westminster Clock is accurate to within one second.
  • The clock face is made of pot opal glass, which is no longer produced.
  • The Keeper of the Great Clock is in charge of the clock and making sure it functions properly.
  • The clock received its nick name Big Ben from Sir Benjamin Hall, First Commissioner for Works, 1855-1858.
Created By
Sarah Edler

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