Ring any (13-tonne) bells?


Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are rightly one of London’s most photographed landmarks – but there is much confusion over the name of the world-famous clock tower.

The name Big Ben does not refer to the magnificent gothic tower that overlooks the Palace of Westminster and the River Thames. Instead, Big Ben is the name of the massive, 13-tonne bell that hangs in the bell-tower.

There is some doubt over how the name was arrived at. Some say the name was coined after a Sir Benjamin Hall, a rather overweight parliamentarian, gave an impassioned speech at a debate to decide the bell’s name. One fellow Member of Parliament is said to have called out “Why not call it Big Ben and have done with it!”

However, there are also suggestions that the name could have been linked to a well-known champion prize-fighter of the time, a 17-stone giant by the name of Benjamin Caunt. His nickname, of course, was Big Ben.

The arrival of the giant bell at Westminster, from where it was made at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in the east end of London, was a grand event. Big Ben was pulled on a trolley by 16 horses, along the banks of the Thames, finally crossing Westminster Bridge where thousands of people had gathered to watch its arrival.

Find out more about Big Ben on our City of Westminster tour. Click here for more information

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