1858 – Construction of Big Ben is completed

1858 – Construction of Big Ben is completed

As you may have gathered here at Philip Harris HQ we love a good pub quiz and we don’t think it is beyond the realms of possibility for one of the most prominent symbols in the UK, Big Ben, to feature. So, just in case it does and because it is interesting, here are some facts about our famous landmark:

There are three significant dates associated with the construction of Big Ben; 10th April 1858 it was cast, it started working on 31st May 1859 and a few months later on 11th July 1859 the bell rang for the first time.

Did you know Big Ben is the name of the bell itself and not the tower which houses it?

The clock tower was constructed as part of Charles Barry’s plans for a new Palace of Westminster after the old one was mostly destroyed during a fire in October 1834. Barry led the project and recruited Augustus Pugin to design it in his distinctive gothic revival style with the numbers on the clock face being approximately 2 feet tall.

It took 34 years to build Big Ben

Once it was complete there was a lot of discussion around what it should be called. In the meantime it is said Londoners got impatient and started referring to it as Big Ben and the name just stuck.

In 1976 Big Ben experienced its first and only major breakdown. After 100 years of use the air break speed regulator broke causing a lot of damage to the clock. During the time it took to repair BBC Radio 4 broadcast the ‘pips’ in its place.

Apart from that there have only been a handful of times the clock has either been switched off or the bell silenced. During both World War I and II the light behind the face of the clock was turned off to avoid guiding enemy planes and zeppelins over London. Then in 1965 the bells were silenced during the funeral of Winston Churchill.

Live on BBC Radio 4

At certain times in the day when the sound of the bell is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this is actually live, recorded by microphones fitted above the bell.

We hope this has provided you with some good knowledge to store away and impress your fellow quiz team members when the time comes or if you have BBC Radio 4 on in your prep room you can casually drop a ‘did you know’ into the conversation when the ‘pips’ sound (with a slight air of smugness at your superior knowledge). We really hope you find these blogs interesting and pop back next week when it will be 1859 and Charles Darwin publishes his On the Origin of Species.

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