One of the favourite pastimes for people all over the world, especially in the UK, is bingo. People of all ages love playing bingo, and there’s a reason why. It the most sociable and fun game that brings people together. In addition, bingo is used as an educational tool, as a party game, and is really a great way to make your road trips funnier if you’re travelling for a long time. And when it comes to the UK, bingo is recognised as a tradition just like drinking tea and having fish and chips. In fact, there has been a study that Brits spend more money on bingo tickets than on football! That’s why we have football bingo cards that are perfect for a football-watching party. But, there are also some other landmarks that the UK is famous for. Big Ben, for example!
When you think of London, a picture of a tall clock tower will probably come to your mind. That is Big Ben, one of the most famous landmarks in the world and one of the most visited tourists spot in London and England overall. Big Ben stands proud at the Palace of Westminster and rings every 15 minutes. Built in honour of Queen Victoria in the mid-19th century, Big Ben attracts thousands of tourists every year. But, did you know that Big Ben was first called St Stephen’s Tower? Well, there are a couple of interesting facts about this landmark you didn’t know, and we are going to share them with you.
Big Ben is 150 years old
The famous clock tower is one of London’s most famous landmarks but it has only been around since 1859. It was built during the redesign of the Palace of Westminster after a devastating fire that destroyed most of the parliament that year. It took 34 years to build it!
Big Ben was introduced on 10th April 1858 while the clock started working on 31st May the same year. However, Big Ben first chimed the hour on 11th July 1859. It chimes every 15 minutes and can be heard for up to eight kilometres.
23 lightbulbs illuminate each of the clock faces. Every lightbulb equipped at each clock face has a lifetime of over 60,000 hours. That’s a life span of almost 7 years.
It’s basically called the Elizabeth Tower
We’ve mentioned this above, but let’s explain it a little bit. When Big Ben was built, it was called the Clock Tower. However, the name was changed in 2012 to Elizabeth Tower to honour Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee.
Before the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012, the Victorians called in St Stephen’s Tower after St Stephen’s Hall, the meeting place of the House of Commons before the fire of 1834.
The name Big Ben refers to the tower’s bell
Even if people use the name ‘Big Ben’ about the tower as a whole, this nickname refers directly to the clock tower’s largest bell. The bell weighs 13.5 tons, about the size of two large elephants. It is 2.2 meters high and has a diameter of 2.7 meters.
The bell is officially called the Great Bell
Did you know that the bell itself is officially called the Great Bell? The nickname ‘Big Ben’ comes from Sir Benjamin Hall who became the first Commissioner of Public Works in 1855 and supervised the rebuilding of the Parliament. The ‘Big’ part comes from the fact that the bell weighs 13.5 tons.
The current bell is not the original one
The original bell cracked during a test in 1857. After that, a second bell was replaced in April the following year. However, the replacement bell also cracked in 1859, so the current bell is the third one. The issue with bell cracking was solved by rotating the bell a quarter of the way clockwise and using a lighter hammer to chime it.
Big Ben was designed in Gothic style
Even though the Westminster Palace was rebuilt during the reign of Queen Victoria, it has a little Gothic style in it. That is because the architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin designed it in a Gothic revival style. Each clock face is a glasswork masterpiece, made up of 312 opal glass shards.
The tower has more than 300 steps
To reach the top of the tower, you must climb 334 steps in total. Fun fact - there is no elevator, so good luck! Any evacuations in the event of an accident are carried out with a complex abseiling rig.
Big Ben tours are available only to UK residents
Yes, we know. It’s not fair. Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower tours are only available for UK residents. In addition, there are other requirements that you have to meet before entering this clock tower. For example, all visitors must be over the age of 11 and must be able to climb all 334 steps without assistance.
Big Ben is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Since 1987, Big Ben has been awarded the honour of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and joins the landmarks such as Stonehenge and the English Lake District. This means that the UK government has a responsibility to maintain the building so it can be enjoyed by future generations.
The tower needs regular repairs
Of course, such a popular landmark has to be properly maintained in order to last for decades. For that reason, Big Ben faced repairs in 1976, 1983-95 and 2007. Moreover, it is currently closed from 2017 for further repairs and will be opened again in 2021. During this renovation, it was announced that an elevator will be installed which will take visitors to the top of Big Ben.
The clock is adjusted with an English penny
Every year, the clock in the Big Ben tower is adjusted with an old English penny. If the clock is running fast, a penny is added to the pendulum. On the other side, if the clock is running slow, a penny is removed from the pendulum.
Big Ben Legend
There is a legend about this tower that says that if Big Ben ever strikes 13 times, the lion statues in Trafalgar Squares will come to life. There are different variations of this legend that say that these lions will either defend or ravage the city.
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Did you know any of these facts? To this day, Big Ben attracts thousands of tourists every day. If you’re as fascinated by this tower as we are, make sure to put it on your bucket list and take the opportunity to visit the world’s most famous clock tower!
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