Expect a long wait if you want to hear the distinctive chimes of Big Ben when standing on Westminster Bridge.
The chimes of Big Ben are one of the most iconic sounds of London. Deep and penetrating, the chimes are instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. But don’t expect to hear them while you are visiting London – at least until 2021. The only exceptions are on very special occasions such as New Year's Eve and Remembrance Sunday.
Big Ben has gone to sleep while repairs are carried out. After 157 years of service, Big Ben needs some maintenance.
Most people don’t realize that Big Ben is actually a massive bell, weighing over 13 tonnes and is 2.2 metres high. It is situated at the top of the tower, close to the clock which itself is very special since it is the largest four-faced clock in the world. Each face is 7m in diameter and has appeared in countless films, most recently in Mary Poppins where Lamplighter Jack turns back time.
The tower in which Big Ben and the clock sit is one of the most photographed in the world. Although most people refer to it as Big Ben, the tower itself is actually the Elizabeth Tower. Climbing it is hard work. There is no lift, just 399 winding steps that the clock specialist climbs most days. His job is to check the time and movement of the pendulum. If it needs adjusting, he has to add or take away a penny! Only pre-decimal pennies can be used as modern ones are too light. Adding one penny to the pile makes the clock gain exactly two fifths of a second every day.
So, what’s the story behind Big Ben? The real reason why the name Big Ben was chosen has been lost in the mists of time. Most people believe that that it was due to one of two reasons. It may have been named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the first commissioner of Works at the Houses of Parliament. He was responsible for the installation of the bell and was often known by his colleagues around the Houses of Parliament as ‘Big Ben’. Alternatively, the sheer size and power of the bell may have led it to be named in honour of a Victorian boxing champion – Benjamin Caunt who had the nickname Big Ben.
For anyone who is keen on going to Big Ben, the London House hotel in Kensington is definitely the right destination every time you are coming to London for your annual vacations.