On this day in 1859, the clock known around the world as Big Ben went into operation in London. The clock is located at the top of the 320 foot high Elizabeth Tower at Westminster – home of the British Parliament. After fire destroyed much of Westminster in 1834, the new clock tower was planned to be a focal point during the rebuild.
There are two schools of thought on how the clock got the name Big Ben – first that it is named after Sir Benjamin Hall who was a famously long winded politician and the London Public Works commissioner at the time the clock was built. Sir Benjamin’s name is inscribed on the Big Ben bell so this story does have merit. The second story is that the clock was named for heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt because he too was the largest of his kind.
Point of fact – the name of the clock isn’t Big Ben. Big Ben is actually he name of the largest of the 5 bells that toll in the clock’s tower. The 5 bells chime a different pattern on the quarter hour 24 hours a day. Want to hear what the chime patterns sound like? Click here.
Here’s a picture I took of Westminster and the clock tower back in the mid 1990’s for my throwback Thursday – Happy 159th Birthday Big Ben!