The UK Parliament is more than the seat of English politics. It is a landmark that goes back to centuries. It is democracy and heritage at the same time. The Houses of Parliament with Big Ben is more iconic than merely a structure in the Parliament House. It is the tower that symbolizes London as a whole. This 316 foot clock tower was constructed in the year 1858. The 14 ton bell that rings here is referred to as the Big Ben. There was an original bell which cracked in 1857 and was replaced. The Bell was supposedly named after Sir Benjamin Hall a bulky and popular man who was the first Commissioner of Works in the Parliament. Affectionately people called him Big Ben. The Big Ben is an integral part of Westminster Palace. When the Parliament sits the light above the Big Ben is illuminated as a symbol of that the Parliament is in action.
The original Big Ben was constructed in 1288-90. Then it was on the Northern side of New PalaceYard. The Bell was called the Great Edward and then much later Great Tom. In 1367 the original tower was replaced and the chiming clock was the first of its kind in England. By 1707 the tower had fallen into disuse. It was repaired and a sundial was put in it. In 1834 in one of the saddest incidents in the history of England The Palace of Westminster was destroyed by an all engulfing fire. Reconstruction started immediately and out of 97 designs Sir Charles Barry’s was choosen. However it didn’t feature the clock tower which was later added to the design in 1836. This is the version of the clock tower which we see now. Material for its construction came from the world over. The cast iron was brought from from Regent’s Canal Ironworks. The exterior façade was built of Yorkshire Anston stone and Cornish granite.
The Houses of Parliament with Big Ben looks like a huge Gothic structure. It has a fascinating mix of old and modern buildings and is a treasure trove of furnishings, archives and works of art. Visitors can watch laws being invented here and also view some of the steaming debates in the Houses. Public Committee sessions are open to all and sundry. Barry was a master architect but not an expert clockmaker. He wanted the clock tower to be at sync with the whole structure and maintain the high standards. Therefore he took the advise of Benjamin Lewis Vuillamy who was the Queens clockmaker as well. Other eminent clockmakers also submitted their designs. The final clock to be selected had to have perfect criteria like “the first stroke of each hour to be accurate to within one second” and “the clock’s performance to be telegraphed twice a day to Greenwich Observatory”. The clock is a symbol of United Kingdom in ways more than one.
Trivias about The Houses of Parliament with Big Ben
- The Bell was silenced for two years in 1916 during the World War I.The clock face was unlighted to prevent German attack.
- During World War II the bell rang but its face was darkened again to prevent enemy raids.
- During the New Years Eve of 1962 the clock slowed down as snow had accumulated on the long hands.
- The Clock stopped in 5 August 27 May 2005 possible due to hot weather.