If London is the destination for you then this great landmark is unavoidable. Big Ben is, without any doubt one of the most famous and most recognizable symbols of not just London, but the whole country, especially in the visual media.
The Name Big Ben
First let’s explain the ambiguity concerning the name itself. The origin of the nickname Big Ben is not quite clear, and there are two theories. Namely, first one says that it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the man who oversaw the installation of the tower, and he was affectionately known in the house as Big Ben, since he was a large man. Another theory claims that this landmark got its name from a heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt who was champion at the time. It is also known that at the time anything that was heaviest in its class was called Big Ben.
History and Characteristics
The name Big Ben now refers to the clock, bell and the tower, but it was first used to describe the Great Bell. It is part of the Palace of Westminster and is situated at its north end.
The Palace or the Houses of Parliament was destroyed in 1834 by fire and it was decided for the new building to include a tower and a clock, hence the Big Ben was constructed in 1859.
It is third tallest free standing clock tower in the world and the clock is world’s largest four-faced chiming clock. The tower was named Clock Tower till 2012 when it was renamed to Elizabeth Tower in honor of Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.
Augustus Pugin designed the clock and dials, and each dial is 7 meters in diameter and each clock dial contains 312 pieces of opal glass. The Latin inscription can be found under each clockface: “DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM“, which means O Lord keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.
The Houses of Parliament is open for public and you can take a tour, but the Elizabeth Tower is not, though the residents of the UK can write to their MP and arrange a visit.