Today is Big Ben’s 153rd birthday and to celebrate I give you a run-down of some choice facts about everyone’s favourite bell.
- Big Ben, and the tower it stands in (yes, we know the difference) were built after a fire partially destroyed the existing Palace of Westminster.
- Big Ben is a big boy. The original bell weighed in at over 16 tonnes and it took a trolley pulled by 16 horses to transport it from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to New Palace Yard, accompanied by cheering crowds.
- Big Ben is actually Big Ben the II. After all that effort, they broke the original bell in tests and had to make a new one. Within a few months Ben had broken again, but was repaired and still chimes today complete with crack.
- Big Ben was the biggest bell in Britain before being trumped by ‘Great Paul’, which hangs (predictably) in St Paul’s.
- There are disputes over who exactly is Ben’s namesake. Many believe it was named in honour of Sir Benjamin Hall who as the London commissioner of works oversaw the bell’s installation. Our preferred alternative is that Ben is named after the truly colossal heavyweight champ, Big Benjamin Caunt.
- BBC Radio Four transmits the chimes of Big Ben live every night before the six o’clock news. Why they don’t record them we’ll never know.
- Ben is a war hero. The bells were silenced and the clock face dimmed during WW1 but rang out clear and strong throughout WW2. The Palace of Westminster was hit on fourteen separate occasions over the course of WW2.
- UK residents can climb the tower by requesting a tour via their local MP.
- Big Ben is on twitter (unofficially), follow @big_ben_clock for the latest bongs.
Happy 153rd Birthday Big Ben!!!