How Big is Big Ben?
Dimensions of the Bell
Its official name is the Great Bell and is the largest of the bells in the clock tower at Westminster. The first bell put in was 16 tons (on August 6, 1856). The bell cracked however, and had to be replaced by another one weighing 13 tons. It is situated some 200 ft up the belfry.
The bell is 2.2 m tall and 2.9 m wide. It was the biggest bell in Britain until Great Paul was put in St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1881. It weighed 17 tons.
Dimensions of the Tower
The size of Big Ben (including the tower) is 96.3 m (315.9 ft). That is equal to about 16 stories. The first 61 m (200 ft) at the bottom are comprised of brickwork and Anston limestone cladding.
The rest of the tower is made up of cast iron. The tower is set on a square raft measuring 15 m (49 ft). The raft is made up of concrete 3 m (9.8 ft) thick. It is 4 m (13 ft) deep underground.
The clock faces are about 55 m (180 ft) over the ground. Measurements show the inner volume is 4,650 cubic m. That’s about 164,200 cubic feet. The tower’s interior is not usually open to the public except on certain occasions.
To reach the top one must climb 334 steps. There is no elevator installed. Although the size of Big Ben remains the same, its orientation is now inclined by 220 mm (8.6 in) northwest. This gives it an inclination of 1/250. The tower oscillates to the east and west by a few millimeters due to thermal conditions.
Dimensions of the Clock
Big Ben’s clock is the biggest four faced clock on the planet. The hour hand is 8 ft (3.2 m) long. By contrast the minute hand is 14 ft (4.3 m) long. The clock faces are on an iron frame. It is 7 m (23 ft) in diameter. There are 312 pieces of opal glass installed as well.
The size of Big Ben’s pendulum is 3.9 m (length). It weighs 300 kg. The pendulum is set in a box and beats every couple of seconds. The mechanisms of the clock are right below it, weighing 5 tons in total.
Origin of the Name
There is a lot of debate concerning the name’s origin. One theory is the name was in honor of Sir Benjamin Hall, who supervised the bell’s installation. Another theory is the bell was named after Benjamin Caunt, a boxing heavyweight champion.
Whatever its origin, the name has stuck. However there is still the occasional confusion as to whether Big Ben refers to the bells, the clock, tower or all of it.
The size of Big Ben is impressive enough, but even more so is its accuracy and durability. Even during the height of the German blitz in 1941, the clock kept on ticking.