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It had several names
“Big Ben” isn’t the only name to be applied to the clock tower. Before 2012, the British called the clock by the incredibly creative name “Clock Tower.” After that, in recognition of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, it was called “Elizabeth Tower.” In addition, during the reign of Queen Victoria, journalists referred to the tower as “Saint Stephen’s Tower.”
Most of the tower is brick
The tower itself is 315 feet high, but only the first 200 is made of brick. The rest is a framed spire made of cast iron.
The face is 23 feet across
It is made of an iron frame that holds over 300 pieces of opal glass and bears the (now slightly ironic) inscription “O Lord, keep safe out Queen Victoria the First.”
Foreigners are not allowed inside
While foreigners aren’t allowed, natives of the United Kingdom can schedule a tour by contacting their local member of Congress.
It tilts slightly
Due to ground condition changes and a tunnel, Big Ben leans to the Northwest by about 9 inches. Due to thermal changes, it also rocks a few millimeters east and west.
The pendulum is huge
Enclosed in a huge windproof box, the pendulum rises and falls every two seconds. It is 13 feet long, over 600 pounds, and is adjusted by adding pennies on top of the pendulum.
The clock chimed throughout the Blitz
While London was being bombed by the Germans, many London services paused while the bombs fell. Big Ben, however, continued chiming the whole time (except for the time it was damaged by explosives).
The name “Big Ben” is the name of the bell
The main bell for the clock tower, while officially known as the “Great Bell,” is generally known by its nickname “Big Ben.” The original Big Ben was a 16-ton behemoth that had to be taken to the tower on a trolley pulled by 16 horses. Ironically, it cracked beyond repair while being tested, and had to be replaced.