London: The story of Big Ben

London: The story of Big Ben

Last updated: 01/10/2019

One of the most important and iconic symbols of the City of London is Big Ben. Do you know what he is Big Ben and his history? You can be sure that something new you will discover by reading this post about the beautiful city of London, shall we?

Big Ben's Story

First of all, it's worth starting by saying that Big Ben it's not that pretty clock that sets the scene for the city of London. In fact, strolling along the River Thames is impossible to see Big Ben! Because? Because Big Ben is not the clock, but the nickname for the bell inside the clock. Completed in 1859, the Clock towerofficially called Elizabeth Tower, and was named so in 2012 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee (60th anniversary in power). The Tower is located at the north end of the Westminster Palace, which is where the two levels of the British Parliament meet: the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

London: The story of Big Ben
Night view of the Clock Tower and Palace of Westminster


The Clock Tower was created as part of English architect Charles Barry's plan to build a new neo-Gothic palace, as much of the former Palace of Westminster had been destroyed by fire in 1834. Although Charles Barry had been the chief architect of the work, it was the architect Augustus Pugin who designed the Clock tower, which was built with 96 meters high. The last 61 meters of the Tower's structure consists of masonry with colored sand and limestone cladding. The remainder of the tower's height is cast in cast iron.

London: The story of Big Ben
Clock Tower, renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012


The Tower's main bell, officially known as the Great Bell, but better known as Big Ben, is the largest bell in the tower. The original bell was a 16.3 ton bell, placed on the site on 6 August 1856. The bell was possibly named after Sir Benjamin Hall, and his name is inscribed on it. However, there is another theory for the origin of the name and claims that the bell may have been named after Benjamin Caunt, a heavyweight boxer. The first bell was transported to the tower on a cart drawn by sixteen horses. However, during testing it cracked and a replacement was made in 1858. Ironically, the bell cracked again in 1959 and had to be repaired again. A square piece of metal was put in to fix it, but to this day the bell has a crack. Check out the numbers of the bell that is working until today:

  • Weight: 13.76 tons
  • Height: 2.29 meters
  • Diameter: 2.74 meters
London: The story of Big Ben
The famous Big Ben bell. Photo:

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  • Despite being one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world, the Tower interior is not open to foreign visitors, although UK residents may request tours (scheduled in advance) through your representative in Parliament. The Tower, however, does not have an elevator, requiring the visitor to be willing to climb its 334 steps.
  • Another interesting fact that few people know is that the Elizabeth Tower is leaning! Due to changes in ground conditions since construction, the tower leans slightly to the northwest. Due to thermal effects it oscillates annually a few millimeters east and west.
  • Some journalists during the reign of Queen Victoria called the Clock Tower the Torre de Santo Estevão.
London: The story of Big Ben
View of the Palace of Westminster from the London Eye
  • In 2012, the 331 Members of Parliament supported a proposal to change the name of the clock tower to Elizabeth Tower, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II. This was thought to be because the great west tower that was formerly known as the King's Tower was renamed the Victoria Tower in honor of Queen Victoria (whose reign was from 1837 to 1901) also on her Diamond Jubilee.
  • the big ben was the biggest bell in Britain until “Great Paul”, a 17-ton bell, was hung in St Paul’s Cathedral in 1881.
  • Currently, the name “Big Ben” has been used to designate the ensemble consisting of the Elizabeth Tower, the bell and the clock.


For those who want to do many things and visit many paid places in London, the suggestion is to purchase one of the cards that give you direct access to attractions and ride the tourist bus, saving a lot! O THE LONDON PASS is the most famous of them. The card can be purchased in versions of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 10 days. It entitles you to admission to over 60 of London's top attractions and 1 day tour on the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus. In addition, the card offers more than 20 exclusive special offers at some of the city's shops and restaurants. See the full list of included attractions in this link. Price: from £69.

Read more: What to do in London – Complete itinerary of 5 days or more



The Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben will undergo a major renovation beginning in 2017 and is expected to last for 3 years. Essential maintenance will be carried out on the watch mechanism, which will be stopped for several months during which the bells will not be heard on a daily basis, but only on commemorative dates and important events. The objective of this renovation is to preserve the Tower, modernize the facilities and guarantee its integrity for future generations. The last renovation work was carried out more than 30 years ago, between 1983 and 1985. The current renovation project includes the installation of an elevator.


Big Ben

  • Address: Elizabeth Tower – Houses of Parliament, westminsterLondon SW1A 0AA, England

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  1. […] Eastgate is one of the ancient gates of the medieval walls of Chester that stands at the original entrance to the Roman fortress of Deva Victrix. The original gate was guarded by a wooden tower which was replaced by a stone tower in the 2nd century, and which was replaced again in the 14th century. The current gate dates from 1768 and consists of a structure of three sandstone arches that leads to a walkway that forms part of the city walls. In 1899, a clock was added to the top of the portal to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee two years earlier. This clock came to be known as the Eastgate Clock and became one of the city's icons, as it is considered the most photographed clock in England after Big Ben. […]


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