One of London's most symbolic landmarks and a prominent feature of the capital's iconic skyline, the Elizabeth Tower at the Palace of Westminster is a main sightseeing attraction visited by thousands of tourists every year.
Affectionately referred to as Big Ben, the Clock Tower was officially renamed as the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Great Bell of the clock, weighing in at over 13 tons, acquired the nickname of Big Ben which is often extended as a reference to the clock tower itself. There are a couple of theories for the origin of this nickname, the most likely being that the Great Bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the First Commissioner for Works between 1855 - 1858. Alternatively the bell could have been named after Ben Caunt, an 1850's champion heavyweight boxer.
On the 28th September 1843, the foundation was laid for what was to be the tower which would house the largest clock in the world, at the time. The tower was completed in 1859 and to this day, the 96 metre (315 ft) tall structure houses what remains the largest clock in Great Britain and the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. Due to a 5 year delay of the work being completed, there were no official celebrations for the opening of the Clock Tower, however celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Elizabeth Tower took place 31st May 2009.
1. The Elizabeth Tower is situated at the north end of the Palace of Westminster which is more familiarly known as the Houses of Parliament.
2. Big Ben chimes every fifteen minutes and can be heard for up to five miles around.
3. The first chime of Big Ben was heard on the 31st of May, 1859.
4. Without a doubt, Big Ben is big! However the largest bell in London can be found in St Paul's Cathedral.
5. The weather vane at the top of the clock tower is known as Little Ben!
6. The Union Flag is flown from the Victoria Tower whenever Parliament is in session.
7. The time of the clock is adjusted every year using an old British penny. If the clock is too fast, a penny is added to the pendulum, or if it is too slow, one penny is removed.
8. Big Ben is the most popular tourist attraction in the United Kingdom.
9. The Clock Tower is often mistakenly known as the St Stephen's Tower which is really located on the west side of the Palace of Westminster and is used as the public entrance.
10. The Elizabeth Tower was built from the inside outwards, meaning that no scaffolding was visible to the outside world.
11. There are 334 steps to the top of the clock tower however it is not open to the public to use for viewing the city.
13. The clock tower is actually a little slanted and leans slightly towards the northwest by 8.66 inches. This is due to some tunnel excavation close by. Since 2003, it tilts by almost a millimeter per year.
14. The clock faces are over seven meters in diameter and are cleaned every five years by abseilers using soap and water.
15. 'Big Ben' has become one of the most well-known symbols of both London and England and is frequently featured in films set in the city. It remains the most iconic film location in the capital.
16. Big Ben chimed thirty times to welcome in the official start of the London Olympic Games on 27th July 2012.
No trip to one of the world's most famous clock towers is complete without acquiring a small memento from your visit, and the iconic London clock tower we all lovingly refer to as Big Ben is no exception. There is a superb variety of Big Ben souvenirs and gifts available, from pin badges and bottle openers to crystal paperweights and even replica Big Ben models with real working clocks!