History of Big ben at London

Let’s get one thing straight: Big Ben is the name of the clock.  This clock, which you may admire when walking along the Thames, must not be confused with the tower on which it stands, atower nowadays known as the “Elizabeth Tower”. Surprisingly, the tower’s namingis of recent origin and was in fact introduced as homage to the Queen followingher 2012 diamond jubilee. The tower and its clock have been part of  the London life for more than 150 years as Londoners may hear Big Ben ring every hour (the chines for quarters is given by 4 smaller and less audible bells). Originally, the Westminster Palace did not have a bell tower. It was only after the infamous 1834 fire that the manappointed to rebuild the palace, Sir Charles Berry, decided to add a 96.3 meter high bell tower to the building.

In 1856, the first Big Ben bell was transported to London by rail and boat.  With great pomp and circumstance, the bell ended its journey by crossing the Westminster Bridge whilst drawn by no less than 16 white horses. It was by all means an unforgettable spectacle. The bell’s grandeur was however short-lived as a 1 meter long crack arose on its side not later than a few months after its installation. The difficult task of melting a new bell was given to the nearby Whitechapel smelter. The new bell was pulled up in October 1958 but it took no less than 30 hours of arduous efforts for the bell to reach the belfry. The new bell finally rang over Westminster on 31st May 1859….before splitting yet again only two months later. Such an event is however not to be considered as negative as it is indeed because of this new crack that Big Ben today has this very particular sound that may be as far as 6 kilometres away. Truth be told, it was only necessary to make the bell revolve around itself in order to avoid the nuisance of replacing her….a second time.

You may of course dream of the view that you could enjoy on top of the tower…but bear in mind that this may very well stay a dream as only British residents are allowed enjoy such a privilege. Indeed…after waiting for weeks for a vacancy and after climbing pass the 334 steps separating the bottom of the tower from the top of the clock, Britons (and Britons only) will then be able to enjoy the delight of contemplating the Kingdom’s capital city from the summit of its most renowned monument. Nevertheless, foreign nationals like yourselves may still enjoy some of the clock’s magic and learn more about its history by visiting Whitechapel’s famous smelter (in the eastern part of the city). Oh… and did you know that Big Ben only requires a simple penny (to be added to its mechanism) in order to tell the right time? Not too complicated, is it?

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