Big Ben

Big Ben  is an iconic symbol of London. Many people think that the whole tower is called Big Ben, but in fact it is the 13-ton bell inside the clock that is called this. The tower is actually St. Stephen’s Tower.

In 1854, it was built in place of the old Palace of Westminster which burnt down in a fire on 16 October 1834.

Big Ben began ticking on 31 May 1859 and celebrated its 150th birthday in 2009. It is the largest four-faced chiming clock. Standing at 315 feet (16 stories tall), it is the world’s third tallest free-standing clock tower.

Big Ben was damaged in 1941, two of the clock faces  and part of the roof were damaged in a German bombing raid. Big Ben was still accurate and still chimed.

There are a stack of coins on top of the pendulum which aid in keeping the clock accurate. When a coin is removed it swings 0.4 secs faster.

If you are a BBC Radio 4 listener like me, you will know that there are bells played at 6 and midnight and at 10 pm on Sundays those bells are from Big Ben played live.

There is a light above the clock faces that lights up to let the public know that parliament is in session.

Construction on the Underground (subway) Jubilee line has caused the tower to lean slightly to the North-West.

Overseas visitors are not allowed to tour Big Ben but UK residents are. You have to write your local MP to schedule a visit. I am told that as you are stationed here you can visit but you will not be able to bring visitors with you. Find out more about how to tour Big Ben.

If you can't do that, you tour it virtually here.

Find out more about Big Ben

All the Best!

American to Britain