Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell) of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, and is often extended to refer to the clock or the clock tower as well.
Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming) clock and the third-tallest free-standing clock tower in the world. It celebrated its 150th anniversary in May 2009 (the clock itself first ticking on 31May), during which celebratory events took place.
The clock faces are large enough to have once allowed the Clock Tower to be the largest four-faced clock in the world, but have since been outdone by the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, the builders of the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower did not add chimes) to the clock, so the Great Clock of Westminster still holds the titleof the "world's largest four-faced chiming clock".
You even know when parliament is in session, because a light shines above the clock face.
The name Big Ben actually refers not to the clock-tower itself, but to the thirteen ton bell hung within.
This bell came originally from the old Palace of Westminster, it was given to the Dean of St. Paul's by William III. Before returning toWestminster to hang in its present home, it was refashioned in Whitechapel in 1858. The BBC first broadcast the chimes on the 31st December 1923 - there is a microphone in the turret connected to Broadcasting House.
There are even cells within the clock tower where Members of Parliament can be imprisoned for a breach of parliamentary privilege, though this is rare; the last recorded case was in 1880.SIGNIFICANCE IN POPULAR CULTURE:
The clock has become a symbol of the United Kingdom and London, particularly in the visual media. When a television or film-maker wishes to indicate a generic location in Britain, a popular way to do so is to show an image of the Clock Tower, often with a red double-decker bus or black cab in the foreground. The sound of the clock chiming has also been usedthis way in audio media, but as the Westminster Quarters are heard from other clocks and other devices, the unique nature of this sound has been considerably diluted.
The Clock Tower is a 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. Similarly, on Remembrance Day, the chimes of Big Ben are broadcast tomark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and the start of two minutes' silence.
The main bell, officially known as the Great Bell, is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster. The bell is better known by the nickname Big Ben.
Since the tower was not yet finished, the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard. Cast in 1856, the first bell was transportedto the tower on a trolley drawn by sixteen horses, with crowds cheering its progress. Unfortunately, it cracked beyond repair while being tested and a replacement had to be made. The bell was recast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13.76-tonne (13½ ton) bell. This was pulled 200 ft up to the Clock Tower’s belfry, a feat that took 18 hours. It is 2.2 metres tall and 2.9 metres wide. Thisnew bell first chimed in July 1859. In September it too cracked under the hammer, a mere two months after it officially went into service. According to the foundry's manager, George Mears, Denison had used a hammer more than twice the maximum weight specified. For three years Big Ben was taken out of commission and the hours were struck on the lowest of the quarter bells until it wasreinstalled. To make the repair, a square piece of metal was chipped out from the rim around the crack, and the bell given an eighth of a turn so the new hammer struck in a different place. Big Ben has chimed with an odd twang ever since and is still in use today complete with the crack. At the time of its casting, Big Ben was the largest bell in the British Isles until "Great Paul", a 17 tonne (16¾...