Completed in 1859 Big Ben is a United Kingdom symbol and one of London’s iconic structures. Each year millions of travellers flock to the United Kingdom’s capital to take in the cities rich history, world-class museums and stunning architecture – namely Big Ben. Here are some fun facts about Big Ben, the world’s most recognizable clock.
Interesting Facts About Big Ben
1. Big Ben Is The Bell, Not The Tower
Contrary to popular belief, Big Ben is actually the name for the great bell within the tower – not the tower itself. The full tower that most people picture when they imagine Big Ben is called Elizabeth Tower in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. Either way, Big Ben is still widely known and recognized as the name for the tower, even by Londoners.
2. It Is A World Heritage Site
In 1987, Big Ben joined the likes of Stonehenge and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to its recognition by UNESCO, it will continue to be preserved for its cultural importance to London and the UK as a whole.
3. No UK Passport, No Entry
Only UK passport holders are allowed to tour the inside of Big Ben. In addition to holding a UK passport, visitors are required to be physically fit enough for the 334 step climb and over the age of eleven.
4. It’s One Of The Most Accurate Clocks In The World
Not only is the clock itself immaculate and intricately detailed, it’s also incredibly accurate. In the nearly two centuries that it’s been standing, rarely has it ever slowed needed a readjustment. Even the bombs of WW2 when the catty-cornered House of Commons was all but demolished, Big Ben continued to ring.
5. Each Year It Is Adjusted With A Surprising Object
To keep Big Ben accurate, each year the clock is fine-tuned to keep it ticking right on the dot. Not much surprise there, but the tool used is pretty interesting – an old English penny. If the clock is running fast, a penny is added to the pendulum; if it is ticking slightly slow, then a penny is removed.
6. It Is Currently Silenced
The dings of Big Ben are an iconic London sound and heard around the city, and they’ve only ever been silenced for a good reason. For example, in 1916, the tower was silenced to ward off German Zeppelins. In 1965, following the death of Winston Churchill and again in 2013 after the death of Margaret Thatcher. Currently, however, the tower is silent for maintenance and is not expected to ring again until 2021 following a four year, 29 million pound maintenance.
7. It Is The Largest Four-Faced Clock In The World
Last but not least, it is the largest of its kind. The hour hand stretches out at 3.2 m (8 feet long) and minute hand at 4.3 m (14 feet). Each face is elaborately detailed and holds a Latin inscription. The message reads: “DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM” which translates to “Oh Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.” The clock and dials were designed by Augustus Pugin and still remains the largest four-faced clock on the planet.