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Big Ben, London, England

August 2nd, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Big Ben is the bell of the Palace of Westminster in London, England, United Kingdom also known as the Great Bell of Westminster, the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster. Many people refer to the whole tower as Big Ben, but the name properly refers only to the bell. The clock tower, St. Stephen's Tower, is at the north-eastern end of the building, the home of the Houses of Parliament, and contains the famous striking clock and bell.

The bell was cast in Stockton on Tees, but had to be re-cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry before completion of the clock and chimes in 1859. The BBC first broadcast the chimes on 31 December 1923 - there is a microphone in the turret connected to Broadcasting House.

The tower was raised as a part of Charles Barry's design of a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire on the night of October 16, 1834. The tower is designed in the Victorian Gothic style, and is 96.3 meters (316 feet) high.

The bottom 61 meters (200 feet) is the clock tower, consisting of brickwork with stone cladding; the remainder of the tower's height is a framed spire of cast iron. The tower is founded on a 15 by 15 meters (49 by 49 feet) raft, made of 3 meters (9 feet) thick concrete, at a depth of 7 meters (23 feet) below ground level. The tower has an estimated weight of 8,667 tonnes (9,553.73213 tons). The four clock faces are 55 meters (180 feet) above ground.

Due to ground conditions present since construction, the tower leans slightly to the north-west, by roughly 220 millimeters (8.66142 inches). Due to thermal effects it oscillates annually by a few millimeters east and west.

The clock in the tower was once the biggest in the world, able to strike the first blow for each hour with an accuracy of one second. The clock mechanism was completed by 1854, but the tower was not fully constructed until four years later.

The clock faces and dials were designed by Augustus Pugin. The clock faces are set in an iron framework 7 meters (23 feet) in diameter supporting 312 pieces of opal glass, rather like a stained glass window. Some of the glass pieces may be removed for inspection of the hands. The surround of the dials is heavily gilded. At the base of each clock face in gilt letters is the Latin inscription 'DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM' meaning 'Lord save our Queen Victoria I'. The name Big Ben was first given to a 14.5-tonne (16-ton) hour bell, cast in 1856. The bell was never officially named, but the legend on it records the commissioner of works, Sir Benjamin Hall, who was responsible for the order. Since the tower was not yet finished, the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard but the bell cracked under the striking hammer, and its metal was recast as the 12.5 tonne (13.8 ton) bell which is in use today. The new bell was mounted in the tower in 1858 alongside four quarter-hour bells.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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