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Big Ben

Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock, located at the top of the 320-foot-high The Elizabeth Tower, on the north side of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.

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Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster)

Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming clock and the third-tallest free-standing clock tower in the world. clock itself first ticking on 31 May 1859

10 April 1858

The original Big Ben, a 14.5 tonne bell for the Tower of London was cast in Stockton-on-Tees by Warner's of Cripplegate. This however cracked during testing and was recast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13.8 tonne, 2.2 metre high bell which is in use today.

image: Clock tower
image: Big Ben

Music to my ears

The Big Ben bell strikes the pitch of “A” The other bell in the tower, the four “Quarter Bells” provide the chimes, and are tuned to the pitch of G sharp; F sharp; E and B.

The sequence is known as the Cambridge chimes and is supposedly a variation on a phrase from Handel’s Messiah. There are even words to the chime, derived from Psalm 37,

“All through this hour,
Lord be my guide,
And by Thy power,
No foot shall slide".

image: big ben clocks

Quick Facts about Big Ben

Big Ben is the world's largest four-faced chiming clock.

The clock became operational on 7th September 1859.

The four faces of the clock are 55 meters above ground.

The clock faces are 23 feet (7m) in diameter.

The hour hand is 9 ft (2.7m) long, and the minute hand is 14 ft (4.3m) long.

The pendulum is 3.9m long, weighs 300Kg and beats once every 2 seconds.

At the base of each clock face is a Latin inscription, in gilt letters. It reads -

“Domine salvam fac Reginam nostrum Victoriam Primam”
"O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First"

The clock tower is the focus of New Year celebrations in the United Kingdom, with radio and TV stations tuning to its chimes to welcome the start of the year.

On Remembrance Day, the chimes of Big Ben are broadcast to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.


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