Beacon of "the mother of all Parliaments", Big Ben is possibly London’s most famous landmark.
Big Ben Facts and Figures:
Big Ben was cast on Saturday 10th April 1858, with the first chime rung in situ on 31st May 1859.
Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London.
George Mears, then the master bellfounder and owner of the foundry.
UKP 2,401 for casting the bell (However this was offset to the sum of UKP 1,829 by the metal reclaimed from a previous bell so that the actual invoice submitted, on 28th
May 1858, was for UKP 572.
"Big Ben" does not refer to the whole clocktower, but to the huge thirteen ton bell that strikes the hour.
One theory has it that the bell was named after a popular heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt. However, the consensus today seems to be that it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall*, a (literally) weighty politician of the time who was the Parliamentary Commissioner of Works.
Also known as The Palace of Westminster, The Houses of Parliament incorporates The House of Commons (destroyed in WW2, rebuilt 1950), The House of Lords & Westminster Hall.
You can visit the Houses of Parliament to watch proceedings from the public gallery. Beware, MPs have absurdly long holidays or "recesses".
Houses of Parliament Summer Opening. During the Summer Recess the Palace of Westminster, home to the House of Lords and the House of Commons is open for a one hour guided tour, which includes both Chambers and other great State Rooms.
*The Story of Big Ben: Great little site with information from the foundry that cast the Big Ben bell in 1858 (and also the U.S.A.’s Liberty Bell in 1752). Group tours of the foundry are available, although bookings may need to be made up to 12 months in advance – so plan ahead!
Photos by Hannah Cohen, Copyright: Hannah Cohen/LondonNet, January 2012