Big Ben

Officially called the Great Bell, the bell in Elizabeth Tower is commonly known as "Big Ben" and is arguably London's most iconic landmark. Particularly its hourly chimes, known as the Westminster Chimes, are a popular event.

Completed in 1859, Elizabeth Tower stands at the north end of the Houses of Parliament. Originally known as the Clock Tower, the name was changed in 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The original clock tower was built during the reign of King Edward I. Located on the northern side of New Palace Yard, it contained a bell and a clock, first named "Great Edward" and later known as "Great Tom."

After a terrible fire, which destroyed most of the Palace of Westminster in 1834, architects were invited to submit their designs for a new structure. Out of 97 submissions, Sir Charles Barry and his designs were the winning selection. The original plan, however, did not include a clock tower. This was added retrospectively in 1836. The bell for the clock tower was cast by Warners of Norton, near Stockton-on-Tees, in 1856. After arriving in the Port of London and being transported across Westminster Bridge on a carriage pulled by 16 white horses, the bell was hung in New Palace Yard. After a series of daily tests, the bell cracked on October 17, 1857. Since Warners asked for too high a price to recast the bell, George Mears of the Whitechapel Foundry was appointed to do the job. The second bell was cast on April 10, 1858. This bell was 2.5 tons lighter than the first bell and took 30 hours to insert the bell into the tower. Big Ben rang for the first time on July 11, 1859; however, it cracked soon after, in September of the same year. Not until 1863, when Sir George Airy presented a solution for fixing the bell, did Big Ben strike again. His solution was to turn the bell by a quarter, so that the hammer would strike a different spot. Thanks to a small square that was cut into the bell, the crack was prevented from spreading further. Due to current refurbishment, both Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower tours are suspended until 2021. Big Ben will also not chime due to repair work to the clock mechanism.

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