Big Ben, the iconic clock tower in London, is a symbol of both the city and the United Kingdom. Although many think they know everything about this famous landmark, there are still quite a few surprising facts that are less known to the general public.

Big Ben is actually a nickname

Although it is commonly assumed that Big Ben is the name of the tower, it is actually the nickname of the large bell inside, which weighs a whopping 13.7 tons. There are various theories about the origin of this name, one of which suggests that the bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the then Commissioner of Public Works, who was affectionately called ‘Big Ben’. The tower itself was originally known as the ‘Clock Tower’, but was renamed to Elizabeth Tower in 2012 in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

The dial is made up of hundreds of pieces of glass

Each dial of the tower is meticulously assembled from 324 pieces of opal glass, all held together by a cast iron frame. With four dials on the tower, this amounts to an astonishing 1,292 individual pieces of glass in total!

Big Ben is more than 160 years old

After a devastating fire in the Palace of Westminster in 1834, the parliament decided to build a new clock tower as part of the restoration works. The construction of the tower began in 1843 and was completed in 1859, meaning that the tower is now more than 160 years old.

The tower is incredibly tall

Elizabeth Tower is an impressive 96 meters high, which is equivalent to about 21 London buses stacked on top of each other!

Big Ben is not the only bell in the tower

In addition to Big Ben, there are four smaller bells in the tower, known as the quarter bells, which together produce the distinctive chime. Each bell produces a different musical note, and together they sound every quarter, with Big Ben chiming every hour.

The tower has gigantic hour and minute hands

The minute hands on the tower’s dials are a whopping 4.3 meters long, comparable to the height of an adult giraffe, while the hour hands are almost 2.7 meters long, about the size of an ostrich.

The Ayrton lamp

Atop the Elizabeth Tower is the Ayrton lamp, a large lantern that lights up when parliament is in session.

The bells do not swing

Contrary to popular belief, the bells in Elizabeth Tower do not swing but are fixed and are struck from the outside by hammers.

Big Ben has endured a lot

Big Ben has survived many historical events and has always continued to chime, even after sustaining minimal damage during the bombings in World War II.

You can climb Elizabeth Tower

For the adventurous among us, it is possible to climb Elizabeth Tower and get a unique view of the inner mechanisms and Big Ben itself, but prepare for a challenge with a total of 399 steps!

Menno, from the Netherlands, is an expert in unearthing fascinating facts and unraveling knowledge. At Top10HQ, he delves into the depths of various subjects, from science to history, bringing readers well-researched and intriguing insights.

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