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Facts About Big Ben

Updated on May 11, 2012

Big Ben is the name of the largest bell in the clock tower of the British parliament building but is generally used to refer to the tower itself. 150 years after it's construction, Big Ben remains one of the best known British landmarks.

Facts About Big Ben

By Victorian standards the clock is very accurate. The speed of the clock is adjusted by placing old penny coins on the pendulum. Adding a coin speeds the clock by 2 fifths of a second every 24 hours.

The name "Big Ben" actually refers only to the 13 tonne bell located within the clock tower. The tower itself is actually called simply "The Clock Tower".

Changes in ground conditions in the 150 years since the tower was constructed have led to it leaning to the north-west at an angle of about 1 in 250.

At the bottom of each clock face there are gold letters showing Latin text which translates "O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First".

Each of the four clock faces has a diameter of over 7 meters. They are cleaned once every 5 years by abseiling cleaners.

There are cells in the tower where Members of Parliament can be imprisoned for a breach of parliamentary privilege.

More facts...

The clock tower was the last building designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin before he went mad.

When parliament is in session green light is visible above the clock.

The tower has appeared to be wholly or partially destroyed in an episode of Dr Who as well as in two films - The Avengers and Mars Attacks!.

The bottom 200 feet of the tower is built from brick and stone cladding with the remainder of the tower made from cast iron.

As well as the main bell there are four other bells which ring at quarter hour intervals and play the notes G#, F#, E, and B.

A 2008 poll of two thousand people revealed Big Ben as Britain's most popular land mark - with Stone Henge coming second.

Videos of Big Ben

Know something we don't? - Please tell us your Big Ben facts:

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    • happy-birthday profile image

      Birthday Wishes 

      5 years ago from Here

      It is pretty big... :-P Thanks a lot for sharing this great lens!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      big ben is 151 years old !

    • hisnameisrob profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @jillbrowne lm: Thanks for your comment. This does seem a nice idea but although Members of Parliament took a vote on this it is still unclear when or if the change will take place. It has been in the news in the last few days that the descendants of the champion boxer Ben Caunt (who some believe the bell was named after) have challenged the change.

    • jillbrowne lm profile image

      jillbrowne lm 

      6 years ago

      The Clock Tower is being renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee. A nice tribute, don't you think? I don't know when this takes effect. Do you?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      it is sooooooooooooo big that is why it is called big ben!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • jadehorseshoe profile image


      7 years ago

      Nifty Lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Also refered to as St. Stephen's Tower, after the hall in which ministers used to congregate.

    • Stacy Birch profile image

      Stacy Birch 

      7 years ago

      nice lens, great photos.


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