Big Ben? That Rings a Bell

Big Ben in London is famous throughout the world, but there are aspects to the history of this structure that are not as well-known. Now, I’m sure there will be a lot of you who are saying we know what you are about to say and that is Big Ben is not the famous clock tower but is the main bell inside. And, of course, you’d be correct. The building that contains the four clock faces and the bells is really called St Stephen’s Tower. It forms one part of the Palace of Westminster which is also known as the Houses of Parliament. It is the place where the British government and opposition parties sit.

The tower holds the record of being the largest four-face chiming clock tower in the world. Whilst we’re on the subject of the main bell, Big Ben is not its official name. In fact, it is only a nickname as the bell does not have an official title. It was originally put forward that it should be called the Royal Victoria bell, but it was not taken up. Another surprise is that it is not the original bell. The first one which was cast on the 6th August 1856 in Stockton-upon-Tees in the north of England. This one did have a name and it was the Sir Benjamin Hall who was an engineer who oversaw part of the building of the Palace of Westminster. He was also a politician. And so that there would be no confusion, this name was inscribed on the bell.

Unfortunately, this first bell did not last very long as it became cracked during its testing. The replacement and present bell was cast at the famous Whitechapel Bell Foundry on Whitechapel High Street, London. It was installed in the tower and first chimed in the July of 1859. But, just like lightning striking in the same place twice, the new bell also became cracked after just two months of service. Fortunately, engineers were able to cut away the damaged part. However, it did mean that the chime of the bell is not exactly as planned. But, if I hadn’t said this, would you have known?

%d bloggers like this: