What’s in a name?
For years this iconic timepiece had no official title and was known simply as Clock Tower, which is probably why it quickly earned a nickname - and a good thing it did, too: ‘Clock Tower’ doesn’t exactly cut it as the name of a world-famous landmark.
There are two people from the 1850s who may be the source of the name: either First Commissioner for Works Benjamin Hall, or champion boxer Ben Caunt. Its official name is now the Elizabeth Tower, after the current Queen Elizabeth II in 2012 for her Diamond Jubilee. The nickname Big Ben was originally given only to the Great Bell of the clock, but now the whole tower has come to be known fondly as Big Ben.
Tells more than the time
Today, Big Ben is one of the most iconic emblems of London and a crucial part of its skyline. Indeed, it is one of the first images that comes to mind when you think of the great city.
It is located on the north side of the Palace of Westminster which is the headquarters of Parliament in England. Construction was completed in 1859, and followed a tradition of nicknamed clock towers on Parliament’s grounds. The first was built in the 13th century by Edward I, and its bell named ‘Edward of Westminster’; it later became known as Great Tom. After a fire destroyed the Palace of Westminster in 1834 the palace was redesigned and the clock tower we know today as Big Ben was included in the project by Charles Barry.
The neo-Gothic clock itself was expertly designed by Edmund Beckett Denison (who managed to steal the commission away from the Queen’s own clock maker) and is the second largest four-faced chiming clock in the world. A grand emblem of London history, Big Ben is without doubt on the must-see list for anyone visiting.