About Big Ben
- Each dial is seven metres in diameter.
- The minute hands are 4.2 metres long (14ft) and weigh about 100kg (220lbs, including counterweights).
- The numbers are approximately 60cm (23in) long.
- There are 312 pieces of glass in each clock dial.
- A special light above the clock faces is illuminated when parliament is in session.
- Big Ben's timekeeping is strictly regulated by a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum.
- Big Ben has rarely stopped. Even after a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during the Second World War, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to strike the hours.
- The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC on 31 December 1923, a tradition that continues to this day.
- The latin words under the clockface read DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM, which means "O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First"
- In June 2012 the House of Commons announced that the clock tower was to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.
When was Big Ben built ?
The Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834. In 1844, it was decided the new buildings for the Houses of Parliament should include a tower and a clock.
A massive bell was required and the first attempt (made by John Warner & Sons at Stockton-on-Tees) cracked irreparably. The metal was melted down and the bell recast in Whitechapel in 1858.
Big Ben first rang across Westminster on 31 May 1859. A short time later, in September 1859, Big Ben cracked. A lighter hammer was fitted and the bell rotated to present an undamaged section to the hammer. This is the bell as we hear it today.
Big Ben is found in the Elizabeth Tower at the north end of The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, Central London, next to the river Thames.
There are a several routes that go past the tower, and Westminster Tube station is directly across the road, serviced by the Jubilee, District and Circle lines. Westminster pier is next to the tower and is served by a number of river bus travel options.
Tours Mon to Fri 9.15am, 10.15am, 11.15am & 2.15pm
Max number: 16 people per tour
Visit the Big Ben is one of London's top attractions. The Elizabeth Tower is currently closed for refurbishment, with no public tours available. You can still join a talk on the Elizabeth Tower or take a tour of the Houses of Parliament next to The Elizabeth Tower. Alternatively, watch this behind-the-scenes video of Big Ben in action.