Big Ben - History and Facts | History Hit

Big Ben

London, England, United Kingdom

Big Ben is the name often attributed to the iconic clock tower of the Houses of Parliament.

Lily Johnson

19 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Big Ben

Big Ben is one of the United Kingdom’s most iconic landmarks, and has for almost two centuries towered over Westminster’s busy streets to the awe of Londoners and tourists alike.

Big Ben history

Though the name ‘Big Ben’ is often attributed to the entire clock tower attached to the Houses of Parliament, it is actually the nickname of its largest bell – also known as the Great Bell. The tower itself is named Elizabeth Tower and, along with its collection of bells and four vast clock faces, was constructed between 1843 and 1859 in the neo-Gothic style.

When it was unveiled, it was the largest and most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world, and on each of its sides is represented one of the four nations of the United Kingdom – a rose for England, thistle for Scotland, shamrock for Northern Ireland, and leek for Wales.

While it is unclear exactly where the name Big Ben originated, it is thought to have been named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the man in charge of commissioning the structure. Another popular, although less likely, theory is that it was named after Ben Caunt, a champion heavyweight boxer of the mid-19th century who also went by the nickname.

Big Ben today

Today Big Ben is one of the most recognisable symbols of London in the world, with the catchy nickname now encompassing the clock tower as a whole. Thousands of visitors flock to Westminster to view its stunning design and vast proportions, widely considered a marvel of Victorian architecture.

Tours inside the tower itself are available to citizens of the UK, who are required to contact their local MP in order to get tickets and must arrive on a scheduled day. Inside the tower, 334 stone steps may be climbed to the top from which stunning views of the city can be observed, as well as the famous bell itself!

For foreign visitors, the adjoining Houses of Parliament may be explored, which provide a fascinating look into the heart of Britain’s government, while the surrounding area also features of host of London’s most interesting sites – Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, the Cenotaph and 10 Downing Street to name a few.

Getting to Big Ben

Big Ben is located in Westminster in Central London. The nearest Underground station is Westminster, a 4-minute walk away, while a number of buses stop at Parliament Square on Victoria Street, directly opposite. The nearest train station is Waterloo, a 12-minute walk away.

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