All my life, I have been waiting ….
After 24 hours of flying and a day-and-a-half of bear-like hibernation in my hotel room with the thermostat set to “Ecuador,” visiting the world-famous Big Ben serves as my official “welcome to London!”
Warning: involuntary regurgitation of factual information featured below this point. Turn back now if you are only in it for the pictures!
The story of Big Ben begins after a fire destroys the Palace of Westminster in 1834. The following year the reconstruction of the building is commissioned and a design competition is held. Ninety architects submit 400 designs and the winning edifice is chosen by committee.
The construction of the building, its towers and the clock prove problematic. There are several significant delays — one of these lasting seven years due to stringent requirements for the accuracy of the time piece — but success is eventually achieved nearly 25 years later. By May of 1859, the clock’s tower is finished and the “Great Clock” is installed and functional. The “Great Bell” finally strikes the hour for the first time on July 11, 1859.
The nickname, Big Ben, initially refers to only the Great Bell (13. 7 tons) that marks each passing hour. Where this moniker comes from is uncertain though it is thought to reference Ben Caunt, a champion heavyweight fighter of the 1850s, or Sir Benjamin Hall, First Commissioner for Works 1855 -1858.
The Great Clock has stopped on several occasions in its 156 years due to breakages, weather, workmen or …. birds. (Birds ruin everything!) The most severe breakdown occurred in 1976, and the clock was stopped for repairs for 26 days over nine months.
Now consider this: being responsible for resetting the most famous clock in the world on time-change weekends!