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The Big Ben in Westminster, London SW1

Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, London, often mistakenly assumed to be the name for the clock and the clock tower. The tower itself is, in fact, the Elizabeth Tower and has housed the Great Bell, following various incarnations, since 1859.There are a few theories surrounding the Great Bell’s nickname, Big Ben. Named after Sir Benjamin Hall, First Commissioner for Works 1855-1858 named after Ben Caunt, a champion heavyweight boxer of the 1850s

The making of the Big Ben bell was not without incident. In 1856, Warners of Norton, near Stockton-on-Tees, cast the new bell. It was delivered to its Westminster home via rail and sea. From the boat it was transported by carriage, drawn by 16 white horses, across Westminster Bridge. After 17 days of testing in New Palace Yard, a 1.2 metre crack appeared. After a verbal battle of blame, a foundry in Whitechapel was appointed to recast the infamous bell.

At 2.7m in diameter, 2.2m high and weighing 13,760kg, the hour bell of the Great Clock of Westminster is the most famous bell ever cast at Whitechapel.

By 1859, after the labour intensive 30 hours it took to winch Big Ben to the belfry, the Great Bell was in place, alongside the four quarter hour bells already in situ. In 1859, Big Ben was once again silenced, due to another crack. This time the silence lasted for four years!

Remarkably, in 1863, Sir George Airy, Astronomer Royal, was able to resolve the problem, - replacing the hammer, rotating Big Ben so the hammer struck a different part of the bell and removing a small section to stop the crack from spreading. Iconic Big Ben has continued to ring out and mark time for Westminster and the surrounding area ever since. Stopping only for minor checks and, more recently, a wash and brush.

For information on property for sale or to rent around the Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster, please contact CityWest Residential, leading estate agents in Westminster.

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