Big Ben is the bell of the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster in London which houses the United Kingdom's parliament. The clock tower was built between 1843 and 1858. Since then it has become an iconic landmark of London, and one of the most popular destinations for tourists.
"Big Ben" refers to the largest bell inside the clock tower. The clock is known for being very accurate and reliable. In fact, it even survived World War II and did not pause when the nearby Commons chamber was bombed. This doesn't mean that the clock has never had mishaps however.
In 1949, so many starlings roosted on the minute hand of the clock that it stopped. Starlings are short-tailed, dark-colored European birds that flock and fly together in sometimes huge numbers. Weather also proved to be a culprit on two accounts, once in 1962 when snow caused Big Ben to delay, and again in 2005 when temperatures hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). Aside from these incidents and rare repairs or refurbishments, Big Ben has been chiming continuously since it first rang in 1859.
If the clock happens to be too slow or too fast, it is adjusted with old British pennies in the pendulum. Pennies are added if it is too slow, and pennies removed if too fast.
More about Big Ben:
- “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First” in Latin is inscribed at the base of each clock dial of Big Ben.
- Big Ben's tower is 315.9 feet (96.3 meters) high. Its bell weighs 13.8 tons and the minute hands weigh close to 220 pounds (100 kilograms).
- Big Ben used to be the largest clock tower in the world. As of 2012, the largest clock tower in the world is "Abraj Al-Bait," Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower.