Big Ben: The former record holder of the largest chiming clock in the world
Big Ben – nickname for the Great Bell of the Great Clock of Westminster
Big Ben (i.e. the Great Bell) is just one of five bells of the tower. However, weighing at almost 14 tons, it is by far the largest of the tower’s five bells. And for close to a quarter of a century, Big Ben was the largest bell in the UK.
Origin of the nickname “Big Ben”
The nickname “Big Ben” probably came from the name of Sir Benjamin Hall (1802-1867), the Welsh civil engineer who supervised the mounting of the bell. Some historians claim that the nickname came from Benjamin Caunt (1815-1861), a 19th-century English bare-knuckle boxer and later heavyweight boxing champion. Caunt went by the nicknames “Big Ben” and “Torkard Giant”.
Big Ben’s Prison Room
There is an oak-paneled Prison Room located in Big Ben. The prison can only be accessed from the Lower House of the British Parliament. English political activist and member of parliament Charles Bradlaugh was the last person to be held in the prison room.
The incident occurred in 1880, when Bradlaugh, known for his staunch atheism, made a huge ruckus over MPs swearing religious oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria. Bradlaugh was temporary imprisoned by the Serjeant at Arms, a parliamentary official in charge for order in the House of Commons.
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Today, Big Ben’s Prison Room is used as an office for the Petitions Committee, a parliamentary committee in charge of petitions submitted to the legislative body.
Did you know…?
Installed in 1878 British barrister Acton Smee Ayrton (1816-1886), the Ayrton Light has been lit anytime the House of Commons has a session after dark. In the Victorian era, it is said that the Queen would look out from her window at the Buckingham Palace to see if the House of Commons were meeting.
Other interesting facts about the Clock Tower – officially known as Elizabeth Tower
The Clock Tower (officially called Elizabeth Tower) was designed by an English architect and artist Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-1852) using neo-Gothic style. The London-born designer is also famed for designing the interior of the Palace of Westminster as well as quite a number of churches in across Britain.
The Clock Tower was completed in 1859. At the time of its completion, the clock (i.e. the Great Clock of Westminster) was the largest chiming clock in the world.
The Elizabeth Tower stands at a height of 316 feet (96 m) tall.
On May 31, 2009, the city of London and all of the UK celebrated the 150th anniversary of the tower, which is one of the most iconic British structures.
In 1987, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Victoria Tower versus Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower)
The Victoria Tower, which is a 98.5-meter-long tower at the House of Lords, is located at the south-west end of the Palace of Westminster in London. It is slightly taller than Big Ben, which stands at 316 feet (96 m). Built in 1860, Victoria Tower was named in honor of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.