Big Ben, the name that is synonymous with the United Kingdom and its capital, London. It is a universally recognized symbol, which is not only an iconic landmark but also the embodiment of British culture and heritage. The clock tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the world and a source of pride for the British people. Big Ben is not just a clock tower; it represents the resilience of the British spirit and the promise of a brighter future.
The clock tower was first built in 1859 and renamed “Elizabeth Tower” in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. Big Ben is not just one of the tallest clock towers in the world but is also a marvel of engineering. It stands at over 103 meters tall, and the clock’s face is over 7 meters in diameter, and the minute hand alone measures an impressive 4.2 meters in length. Big Ben’s chimes resonate across London, marking the hours and soon became a symbol of national pride, a manifestation of the United Kingdom’s democratic heritage.
Big Ben represents more than just a clock tower; it symbolizes the resilience, strength, and resolve that is synonymous with the British people. It is a constant reminder of the United Kingdom’s unwavering spirit, which has seen it through many difficult times, including two world wars and several major crises. Big Ben is more than just a symbol; it is an embodiment of British identity, showing the world the power and strength of a nation that has stood the test of time.
The History of Big Ben
Big Ben is perhaps the most iconic symbol of London and a fascinating piece of architecture with a rich history. Many people, however, are confused about what Big Ben actually is. The truth is, Big Ben is not the name of the tower or the clock, but rather the nickname given to the Great Bell inside the clock tower. The 316-foot tower itself is officially the Elizabeth Tower, named to honor Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Here is a brief history of this famous landmark.
In 1844, the Palace of Westminster, which was the main seat of government in the United Kingdom, was destroyed by a fire. The Royal Commission of Fine Arts was formed, tasked with rebuilding the palace. The commission ran a competition to design a new tower, and out of 245 entries, Charles Barry was chosen with his design of a 316-foot bell tower. The construction of the tower began in 1843 and took 13 years to complete. This feat was not without its challenges – the construction was marred by numerous setbacks and accidents.
The actual clock mechanism itself was designed by a lawyer named Edmund Beckett Denison and Horological engineer Edward Dent. The clock’s design was unique – it used a double three-legged gravity escapement, which was so accurate that it only needed a few seconds a week adjustment. The final clock and bell were completed and installed in the tower on April 10, 1858.
The Architecture of Big Ben
Big Ben is one of the most famous landmarks in London and an iconic symbol of the United Kingdom. It stands proudly in the north end of the Palace of Westminster and is a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture.
- Height: At 96 meters tall, Big Ben is an impressive sight to behold. Its towering height extends beyond the Palace of Westminster and can be spotted from far away.
- Design: The design of the clock tower was a collaborative effort between Augustus Pugin, a renowned architect during the Victorian era, and Charles Barry, who was responsible for designing the Palace of Westminster itself.
- Style: The Gothic Revival style was chosen because of its medieval references. Gargoyles and ornamental details adorn the tower’s exterior, and the four clock faces are set in wrought iron frames, which are beautifully decorated with gold leaf.
The clock faces of Big Ben are undoubtedly the most iconic feature of the tower’s architecture. Each face is 23 feet in diameter, making them the largest in the world. The black numerals on the clock have a beautiful serif design, and the minutes are marked in red. The clock hands, which are also made of wrought iron, are trimmed with gold and pitch themselves against the clock face with mechanical precision.
The intricate details of Big Ben’s architecture are not just limited to its exterior. The interior of the tower is equally impressive, with stunning spiral staircases, cast iron columns, and a beamed ceiling in the clock room.
|Height: 96 meters
|Diameter of each clock face: 23 feet
|Thickness of clock face: 2 feet
|Weight of Big Ben’s bell: 13.5 tons
Overall, it is evident that Big Ben is not just a clock tower; it is a spectacular work of art. Its architecture symbolizes the long and rich history of the United Kingdom and stands as a testament to human creativity and ingenuity.
The Location of Big Ben
Big Ben is one of the most iconic symbols of London, located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. Here are some fascinating facts about the location of Big Ben:
- The Palace of Westminster is located on the bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, London.
- The Palace of Westminster is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has some of the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture in the world.
- The location of Big Ben at the north end of the Palace of Westminster is often referred to as the “clock tower”. However, the tower was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012, in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The Elizabeth Tower stands at a height of 316 feet, making it one of the tallest free-standing clock towers in the world. It is an impressive sight that can be seen from miles away, making it an important landmark for tourists visiting London today.
The Elizabeth Tower is home to the famous Great Clock of Westminster, which contains four clock faces that are each 23 feet in diameter. The faces are made of opaque glass, and the minute hands are 14 feet long.
|The Palace of Westminster
|Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom
All in all, Big Ben, or the Elizabeth Tower, stands at the heart of London, standing tall amidst the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s busiest cities. It has become an integral part of British history and is a wonder of architectural and engineering accomplishment.
The role of Big Ben in British politics
Big Ben is not only a popular tourist attraction in London, but it holds a significant role in British politics. The iconic clock tower, officially known as the Elizabeth Tower, is located at the Palace of Westminster where the Houses of Parliament are situated. Below are the various ways that Big Ben symbolizes its importance in British politics:
- Timekeeping and order: Big Ben’s accurate timekeeping has been essential in ensuring the smooth running of British parliamentary sessions. It marks off each hour with its chimes, notifying MPs and staff of important deadlines and keeping the discussions on schedule.
- Symbol of democracy: Big Ben has been a symbol of British democracy since it was first built in 1859. It stands as a constant reminder that the people are in charge and the British political system is one that values and upholds democracy.
- Tradition and history: The clock tower embodies centuries of British history and tradition. The design and engineering of Big Ben took years to perfect, and it has become a part of the cultural identity of London and the UK as a whole.
In addition to these symbolic roles, Big Ben has also played a practical role in British politics:
The Palace of Westminster is often used as a location for protests and marches, and Big Ben has been a focal point for many of these events. Its iconic image has been used countless times in media coverage of political rallies, representing the heart of British democracy and free speech.
|Student protests against tuition fee increases
|Brexit referendum vote
|Climate change protests
Overall, Big Ben’s symbolic and practical contributions to British politics are significant. It is a constant presence in the lives of British MPs and serves as a beacon of democracy and tradition. Its iconic image has come to represent the heart of British politics and democracy, keeping watch over every important historical moment in the UK’s political history.
The symbolism of the clock face on Big Ben
If you’ve ever seen an image of Big Ben, you’ll likely remember its iconic clock face. But did you know that each element of the clock face holds symbolic significance? Let’s take a closer look at what the number 5 on Big Ben’s clock face symbolizes.
- The number 5 on Big Ben’s clock face represents the five minutes between each quarter hour.
- This precision in timekeeping is a nod to the importance of accuracy and efficiency in British culture.
- Additionally, the number 5 can be seen as symbolic of the stability and grounding that time provides in our lives.
Overall, the number 5 on Big Ben’s clock face represents both the practical and symbolic importance of timekeeping.
The other numbers on Big Ben’s clock face
- The number 12 represents noon and midnight, and is symbolic of the completion of a cycle.
- The numbers 1-11 represent the hours before noon or after midnight, and symbolize the progression of time throughout the day.
- The four major compass points are also represented on the clock face, emphasizing the importance of time and navigation in the world of travel and exploration.
The hands of Big Ben’s clock
The hands of Big Ben’s clock are also significant in their symbolism. The minute hand represents the practical value of precise timekeeping for the sake of schedules and appointments.
The hour hand, on the other hand, embodies a more abstract idea of time. It represents the progression of our lives and the passing of each hour as a finite resource that should be used wisely.
|Precise timekeeping for practical purposes
|The passage of time and the finite nature of our lives
Combined with the symbolism of the clock face numbers, the hands of Big Ben’s clock represent the multifaceted role that time plays in our lives and in British culture as a whole.
The restoration of Big Ben in recent years
Big Ben is more than just a clock tower; it is a symbol of London and one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. The tower has undergone several restorations throughout its history, but in recent years, its restoration has been particularly significant.
The most recent restoration project began in 2017 and is expected to be completed by 2021. The project includes the complete restoration of the tower’s clock and mechanisms, as well as repairs and upgrades to the tower’s interior and exterior.
One of the most significant aspects of the restoration project is the attention being paid to the tower’s famous bell, also known as Big Ben. The bell has been removed from the tower and taken to a specialist facility where it is being restored to its former glory.
- The bell, which weighs over 13 tons, was last restored in 1983.
- During the current restoration project, the bell is being repaired, cleaned, and restored to ensure its continued accuracy and reliability.
- The bell’s striking hammers are also being refurbished, and new striking hammers are being made to ensure the bell can continue to chime for years to come.
Once the restoration is complete, Big Ben will be back in action, chiming every hour as it has done for over 150 years. The restoration project will ensure that this iconic symbol of London will continue to stand the test of time for generations to come.
Here is a table showing some interesting facts about the restoration project:
|Duration of the project
|4 years (2017-2021)
|Cost of the project
|Number of workers on the project
|Between 80-100 workers
The restoration of Big Ben is a testament to the enduring popularity of this iconic symbol of London. The project is ensuring that Big Ben will continue to chime for generations to come, and it is a true testament to the skill and dedication of the craftsmen and women who are working tirelessly to restore this magnificent tower.
The sound of Big Ben’s chimes
Big Ben is one of the most recognizable symbols of London and has become a cultural icon around the world. The sound of its chimes has been heard on television, radio, and films, making it an instantly recognizable feature of London’s cityscape. But what does the sound of Big Ben’s chimes symbolize?
- The number 7
- The four-quarter chimes
- The striking of the hour
Let’s dive deeper into one of these symbols:
The number 7
Big Ben’s four faces all have numbers that are double in size to the rest of the clock. Each face has twelve numerals, but the hour hand only has to point to seven numbers. This is because the clock was designed to be easily seen from far away, and seven was chosen as it is the maximum number of digits that can be read at a glance. The number 7 is also a special number in many cultures and religions, symbolizing completeness, perfection, and the realization of spiritual gifts.
|Symbolic Meaning of the Number 7 in Different Cultures
|Ancient Egyptians believed that the god Osiris was killed and reborn on the 7th day of the month
|Christians believe that God created the world in seven days and that there are seven sacraments
|In Hinduism, the number 7 is associated with the seven chakras or energy centers in the body
|In Chinese culture, the number 7 is considered lucky and symbolizes togetherness and harmony
In addition to its cultural significance, the number 7 also plays a practical role in the functioning of the clock. Each of the seven numbers on the clock dial represents a quarter of an hour, and the chimes ring on the hour, half-hour, and quarter-hour.
Overall, the sound of Big Ben’s chimes is a unique and meaningful symbol of London and its cultural heritage. It represents not only the time but also the deeper significance of numbers and their cultural and spiritual contexts.
The cultural significance of Big Ben to Londoners
Big Ben is not just an iconic landmark of London, but it also has a cultural significance that is deeply rooted in the history and identity of the city and its people. From being a symbol of power and authority to being a tribute to the resilience of Londoners, Big Ben holds a special place in the hearts of the Londoners. Here are some of the cultural significances that Big Ben holds for Londoners:
- Symbol of power and authority: As one of the most recognizable landmarks of London, Big Ben has become a symbol of power and authority. It stands tall next to the Houses of Parliament and has been the backdrop of many historical events that have shaped the fate of the city and the nation.
- A tribute to the resilience of Londoners: Big Ben has also become a tribute to the resilience of Londoners. Despite being badly damaged during World War II, it was quickly repaired and has been in service ever since. This has become a testament to the tenacity and determination of the people of London, who refused to be broken by the horrors of war.
- A cultural icon: Big Ben has also become a cultural icon in its own right. It has been featured in numerous films, TV shows, and books, and has become synonymous with London itself. In fact, it is impossible to imagine London without Big Ben.
- A symbol of time: Big Ben is also a symbol of time. Its iconic clock face looms large over the city, reminding everyone of the importance of time and punctuality. It has become a cultural touchstone for Londoners, who often use it to mark the passage of time in their daily lives.
Overall, Big Ben symbolizes the rich history, identity, and culture of London and its people. It is a living testament to the resilience, determination, and creativity of Londoners, and a reminder of the cultural and historical significance of this great city.
|Symbol of power and authority
|Big Ben has become a symbol of power and authority due to its historical significance and proximity to the Houses of Parliament.
|Tribute to the resilience of Londoners
|Despite being badly damaged during World War II, Big Ben was quickly repaired, becoming a testament to the tenacity and determination of the people of London.
|Big Ben has become a cultural icon in its own right, featured in numerous films, TV shows, and books, and has become synonymous with London itself.
|Symbol of time
|Big Ben’s clock face looms large over the city, reminding everyone of the importance of time and punctuality.
Big Ben is not just a clock tower or a tourist attraction, but it is a cultural touchstone that has come to represent the city and its people. Its significance goes beyond its physical structure, and it is now an integral part of the fabric of London’s cultural identity.
Big Ben as a symbol of British identity
Big Ben, the iconic clock tower located at the northern end of the Palace of Westminster in London, has come to represent the quintessential British identity. The tower has been featured in countless movies, TV shows, and postcards, making it one of the most recognizable symbols of London and the UK as a whole.
- Its history dates back to the 19th century when it was built as a part of the Palace of Westminster, the center of British government and democracy.
- Big Ben’s timekeeping accuracy has been relied upon to regulate the city’s pace and to keep Britain in sync with the rest of the world.
- The tower’s architecture and decorative features embody the Victorian era’s values of innovation, craftsmanship, and national pride, which are integral parts of the British identity.
Big Ben has played a pivotal role in shaping British identity through its political and cultural significance over the years.
The clock tower’s endurance through the blitzes of World War II symbolizes Great Britain’s strength and resiliency. It has also been the defining backdrop for many historical moments, such as royal weddings, state ceremonies, and the televised New Year’s Eve countdown.
|Notable events that took place at Big Ben
|First radio broadcast from the top of the tower
|May 2, 1924
|Big Ben’s centenary celebration
|May 31, 1959
|Big Ben’s name-change to Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee
|June 4, 2012
Furthermore, Big Ben’s chimes have become synonymous with Britain since the BBC has broadcasted them since 1923 as part of its news bulletin, world service, and other important events.
Big Ben’s symbolism has transcended national boundaries, and it has become a global icon that embodies Britain’s rich history, culture, and human ingenuity. Today, visitors worldwide flock to see Big Ben as a symbol of their connection to Britain and its cultural heritage.
The Tourist Attraction of Big Ben
Big Ben is one of the most famous landmarks in the world, attracting millions of tourists each year. The iconic clock tower, officially named the Elizabeth Tower, stands at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, England. Built in 1859, it has become a symbol not only of London, but of England as a whole.
The number 10
The clock tower has become synonymous with the number 10. This is because the clock faces are 23 feet in diameter and each number measures two feet in length. The number 10 is the largest number on the clock and is located at the top of the tower, directly beneath the clock’s hour hand. It’s a subtle but important detail that adds to the tower’s grandeur and significance.
Reasons to visit Big Ben
- The architecture – The clock tower’s Gothic architecture stands out against the surrounding Westminster area and is a marvel to behold.
- The history – Big Ben has been a witness to some of the most important events in British history, including World War II.
- The view – Visitors can climb the 334 steps to the top of the tower for a breathtaking view of London.
The Mechanics of the Clock
Big Ben’s clock is an impressive feat of engineering, with four clock faces, each made up of 312 separate pieces of opal glass. The clock mechanism consists of three main components: the going train, the striking train, and the chiming mechanism. It’s so reliable that it has only stopped working a handful of times since it was first installed.
|Height of the Tower
|96 meters (316 feet)
|Weight of each clock face
|Length of pendulum
These are some of the fascinating facts that make Big Ben a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in history, engineering, or architecture.
What Does Big Ben Symbolize? FAQs
Q: Why is Big Ben so famous?
A: Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. This iconic clocktower has become a symbol of British culture and is a world-renowned landmark.
Q: What does Big Ben represent?
A: Big Ben symbolizes many things, including the strength and resilience of the British people, the precision of time-keeping, and the grandeur of British architecture.
Q: Is Big Ben still in use?
A: Yes, the clocktower is still in use and is a popular tourist attraction. However, it is currently undergoing a four-year renovation that began in 2017.
Q: Who built Big Ben?
A: Big Ben was designed and built by the famous clockmaker, Edmund Beckett Denison, in collaboration with Sir George Airy, the Astronomer Royal.
Q: How tall is Big Ben?
A: The clocktower stands at over 316 feet tall and has 11 floors and 334 steps.
Q: What kind of bell is Big Ben?
A: Big Ben is a massive bell that weighs over 13 tons.
Q: Why is Big Ben so important to Londoners?
A: Big Ben has been an important part of London’s skyline since it was completed in 1859. It has become a symbol of London and is loved by locals and visitors alike.
We hope that these FAQs have answered your questions about what Big Ben symbolizes. For centuries, this clocktower has been a source of inspiration, pride, and awe for people around the world. Thanks for reading and we look forward to welcoming you back to our website again soon!