Big Ben in London

Photo of Big Ben in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Big Ben in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of Big Ben in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Big Ben in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Big Ben in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Big Ben in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Big Ben in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Big Ben in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Big Ben in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Big Ben
Official name:Elizabeth Tower
Also known as:Saint Stephen's Tower
Formerly:Parliament Clock Tower

Bridge Street, London, England, Westminster SW1
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For tourists, photographers, residents, and even terrorists, this is the symbol of London. Officially called the Clock Tower, millions of people around the world know it as "Big Ben." In truth, Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the clock, not the tower. But trying to convince people of that is akin to trying to stop a train with your car: It's possible, but not worth the effort. Not a building on its own, the 320-foot Clock Tower is one of two towers flanking England's Houses of Parliament. It was built after a fire in 1834 destroyed most of the existing structure. That inferno was caused by the burning of an abacus that was used for bookkeeping. The fire got out of control and took most of the building with it. Charles Barry was the winner of a competition to design the new center of government. He went with a Renaissance style, and married it with Neo-Gothic details by Augustus Pugin, including the towers. Inside the tower is Big Ben -- a 13-ton bell that sounds the hours as time passes. There is no firm documentation on how the bell got its name. Some think it was named after boxer Ben Caunt. Others believe it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, a rather hefty gentleman who was a commissioner in Westminster. Either way, it is the quintessential London experience to emerge from the Underground, walk along the Thames on a foggy Sunday morning and hear Big Ben toll. If you're not in London, it can still be heard frequently on the radio via the BBC World Service on AM in Europe, and satellite and shortwave elsewhere. For the frequency where you live, see the BBC World Service home page.

Quick Facts
  • 1949: Big Ben's time falls behind by 4½ minutes when a flock of birds perches on the minute hand.
  • 1962: Big Ben sounds the New Year ten minutes late because of a buildup of heavy snow on its hands.
  • 20 March, 2004: Protesters scale Big Ben and unfurl a banner protesting war.
  • 30 October, 2005: Big Ben is paused for several hours so workers could perform routine maintenance and inspections.
  • 2012: The clock tower was officially renamed "Elizabeth Tower" in honor of Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee.
  • Over the years there has been historical debate over who designed the Houses of Parliament and the clock tower commonly known as Big Ben. Charles Barry began the design, but then hired Augustus Pugin to complete it. Pugin, himself, has been quoted as giving Barry the credit for the better half og the work.
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Your Thoughts

There are 33 comments.

  Many years since I last saw "Big Ben" and not sure if I will ever see it again, in the flesh! It is a wonderful site and a joy to behold. First saw it as a child when taken to visit Aunt and Uncle in Kensington. It was amazing. Have seen it many times over the years along with other London tourist hot spots! Always such a great deal of fun. It would be great to visit again with my darling hubbie. Fingers crossed xxxx

Diane Ford - Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 @ 3:26pm  

  I know that this is the most amazing structure ever made. My mother had this broach of a grand father clock and always used to tell me that it was BIG BEN, when I went to London just 3 months ago, my mum and I were taking to a place we were staying, my dream was to see BIG BEN, known to be the greatest clock tower ever built. So that day we got on the tube as as we came out of the subway to Westminster, there it was, 93,5 meters high, 4 faced clock, the BIG BEN. as I saw it I took about 20 photos of it. At 3:58, we were walking over Westminster bridge and then it happened, I looked up and heard it, the bells, They were so beautiful that for some reason I knew my place in life was to stay in London. My friend George de Jager says that Big Ben is the stupidist thing ever made. He lives on 15 Avenue, Bedforview, Gauteng, South Afrika. My biggest wish is to climb big ben but unfortunitely i am not a resident of London. Queen Elizebeth 2, you should be proud of ENGLAND.

Joshua van Velzen - Thursday, September 10th, 2009 @ 12:05pm  

  Wow I've never seen anything like it... it's pretty, yet bold and old, though still strong... I sooo want to go there again although I have been there lots and lots of times. It's great!!!

Jacqueline - Saturday, March 7th, 2009 @ 4:34am  

  Awesome, along with parliament building it's like a brilliant gem dropped on the earth. I am really looking forward to seeing it again.

H. Mirfakhraei - Friday, May 23rd, 2008 @ 9:35pm  

  Awe-inspiring. Quite simply, one of the greatest examples of architecture on the planet. This building *IS* London.

Will Fox - Monday, April 14th, 2008 @ 7:53am  

  I have no words to explain the beautiness of this Tower. I really want to see this.

Raman Batra - Tuesday, December 11th, 2007 @ 5:31am  

  Clock Tower is the most awesome structure I ever seen, the architect is superb and beautifuly crafted. IT looks beautiful from every angle... All credit goes to Charles and Augutus the creator of this unbelievable structure.

Nevin Peter - Thursday, November 1st, 2007 @ 1:10pm  

  What a clock! truly its the pride of the mighty british empire, What the Statue of Liberty is to the United States of America Big Ben is to England

srinivas - Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 @ 6:01am  

  There is now way to explain the feeling of being there and seeing this wonderful tower and clock...I have seen it many times and it always brings tears to my eyes, and a thumping in my chest...

Christine - Sunday, August 26th, 2007 @ 8:30am  

  this building is second to none. I was amazed when I first saw it at first in London. It was one of the best times I've ever had.

Narantsogt - Tuesday, February 20th, 2007 @ 6:07am  

  How beautiful it is! I hope, someday I can visit this spectacular place.

Kusdiana Lusi Kartikasari - Monday, January 29th, 2007 @ 9:07pm  

  Ever since I was a child I have been listening about the Big Ben. I have seen them in pictures. I would like Big Ben to be there always. I hope to see it one day. London will not be the same without it. Please let it be. I like Big Ben.

Shamim from Pakistan - Saturday, October 7th, 2006 @ 3:09am  

  Amazing!!! quite impressive.I want to see it someday in real life.

Katlego B Mazunga - Monday, September 25th, 2006 @ 10:47am  

  one word: magnificent

Rio - Friday, September 15th, 2006 @ 7:44pm  

  It was amazing to see it in real life, always see it movies, but to actually be there is was AWESOME

Nadine - Saturday, March 25th, 2006 @ 8:51pm  

  I think this is an AWESOME structure I cannot wait to see it SOON what a site I am sure in real life.

Danyel - Saturday, January 28th, 2006 @ 9:42am  

  I have never seen the big ben but from researching, i think it is really awesome.

Spicer - Monday, January 23rd, 2006 @ 11:58am  

  What a world clock! truly amazing and beautiful, incredible detailing the pride of the british people, the symbol of London and England as the Statue of Liberty is to the United States of America and New York City a true landmark.

Wilbert NYC - Saturday, December 3rd, 2005 @ 2:13am  


Guto - Friday, November 11th, 2005 @ 2:36pm  

  Whether on a brilliant sunny day or shrouded in fog, Big Ben is quintessential London.

Aaron - Wednesday, October 19th, 2005 @ 11:07pm  

  The most beautiful thing an eye could look at-just wish I could see it in reality.magnifecent.!!

Adele Maistry - Tuesday, October 11th, 2005 @ 9:15am  

  This Place is really amazing. I am one day Going to live there.

Paige - Tuesday, September 6th, 2005 @ 1:23pm  

  beautiful and impressive site,go for a walk at night is different

Luz - Thursday, August 11th, 2005 @ 7:26am  

  I guess this is one of the most spectacular places to visit

Sofia - Sunday, August 7th, 2005 @ 7:45pm  

  i loved it i went with arsene wenger and the arsenal squad it was amazing

robert pires - Sunday, June 26th, 2005 @ 7:43am  

  Big Ben is an excellent tower. It is truly a part of Heaven on Earth. It looks so much more beautifal and big when you see it in reality. And the chimes make me truly feel English!

Richard Pullin - Sunday, May 29th, 2005 @ 5:00am  

  An incredible structure! It's more beautiful in reality than any photo I've ever seen

Lorraine Hornig - Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005 @ 6:55pm  

  Unique. Beautiful to look at and the sound of Big Ben striking is unmistakeable. Must see and hear at least once in your lifetime.

Mal Walker - Sunday, March 13th, 2005 @ 1:21am  

  Beautiful pic of the best-known clock in the world. Wonderful site.

Minnie - Wednesday, January 19th, 2005 @ 8:43am  

  very good

Vaiva - Friday, January 14th, 2005 @ 10:25am  

  Fantastic structure.

Marjan M. Jaberi - Monday, December 27th, 2004 @ 12:46am  

  very good

Guilherme - Thursday, October 7th, 2004 @ 2:32pm