Big Ben Facts for Kids

Did you know there is a clock tower in London, England that so famous people will travel worldwide to view it? It is a famous landmark and one of the most recognizable clocks globally or all around the world. It is the famous Elizabeth Tower or better known by its nickname Big Ben! 

History of Big Ben

One of the most famous tourist attractions globally has a great history. Big Ben is located in the old Palace of Westminster and makes up one of the three main towers. 

Augustus Pugin designed the Big Ben clock tower. The bell tower construction was completed in 1859. Although no one knows for sure, people believe Big Ben was named after Sir Benjamin Hall. He was the first commissioner of works.

The tower is made of more than 3,000 cubic feet of stone and about 92,000 cubic feet of bricks. It was the largest and most accurate clock during the time period and the only tower with a clock face on all four sides.

After the original bell was installed, and during the first time it was used, the bell developed a large crack and had to be replaced with a second bell. John Warner was the creator of this original bell. It had to be remade by another company, but the quarter bells are still Warners. 

Keeping the Correct Time

Edmund Beckett Denison is responsible for making sure the great clock tower kept accurate time. It struck the hour right down to the correct second using a unique clock mechanism to keep the clock’s speed accurate or correct. This mechanism or machine is used in almost all clocks.  

Big Ben in World War 2

During World War 2, Big Ben was badly damaged due to the Nazi bombing. Two of the clock’s dials were destroyed, and the bombs took off a large roof section. Also, during WW2, the clock went dark because of blackout rules. Since all of London was dark, the glowing clock faces would have been an easy target for air bombers. 

The Bells of Big Ben

The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast on BBC radio on December 31st, 1923, to celebrate the New Year, and this tradition continues today. 

In 2007, the tower went under major renovations and repair work, and the quarter bells were silenced for many months. In 2012, Big Ben went through a name change to Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

The bells have since fallen silent again because of restorations in 2017. Big Ben continued to keep time, but the bells were disconnected so they would not make a sound. This allowed them to be kept safe and away from dust and debris during construction. They chimed again to mark the New Year in 2022! 

Quick and Fun Facts

  • The first house of parliament burned down in 1834 due to a fire. The new parliament was built from 1840-to 1876 when Big Ben was built in the Elizabeth Tower. 
  • Queen Victoria opened the new parliament building, and the West tower is named after her. 
  • Members of parliament had to deal with protestors when chimes were not ringing due to the restoration or updating of Big Ben. It was to protect the worker’s ears while inside the great bell of the clock. 
  •  Many birds decided to rest on the minute had in 1944, and it caused the time on the clock to run slow. 
  • The Clock Tower leans in at an angle of about 0.04 degrees, and it is such a small lean you have to really get close to notice it. 

Big Ben’s Clock and Bells

This iconic landmark is not only known for the beautiful tower but for the clock, which can be found on all four sides of the tower.

28 light bulbs light the four faces of the clock. They can change colors and tint the clock for special occasions. The minute hands are 14 feet long and weigh 220 pounds. The hour hands are made of gunmetal and are 9 feet long, and weigh about 660 pounds!

Big Ben’s Chimes are made of multiple different bells. The main bell strikes every hour, and the large bell’s hammer had to be replaced with a lighter hammer because it was too heavy and cracked the first bell. Smaller bells chime every quarter-hour.

Each clock face has a diameter of 23 feet. If you were to measure from the 9 to the 3, you would land at 23 feet. The clock faces are made of glass, and there are 312 pieces of glass on each face. These pieces of glass are cleaned every 5 years. The numbers which circle Big Ben are roman numerals. 

Interesting Facts

There are many interesting facts people want to know about the Elizabeth Tower or Big Ben.  The construction of Big Ben took 13 years to complete.

 It stands 316 feet tall, and if you were to climb to the top, you would walk up 334 steps.

The sound of the clock chiming follows a specific pattern every time it chimes the hour. Big Ben’s tune comprises or is made of only four notes – G sharp, F sharp, E, and B. 

There is a Latin saying under Big Ben’s clock face. It says, “OMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM” When translated, it means O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First. 

There is also a green lantern above the clock which shines whenever Parliament is in session. Queen Victoria had this installed so she could tell when the Commons or the Lords were working after dark. It was a way of seeing how hard they were working for the people of England. 

Come Visit! 

Big Ben or Elizabeth Tower is one of the most beautiful and well-known places worldwide. If you ever want to visit this clock tower, you can travel by car, bus, or subway (tube). Five bus lines stop near Big Ben, and three subway lines or tube lines let passengers off near the clock. Just be careful to “mind the gap” when you are boarding or getting off!