Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower

With all the news surrounding Big Ben at the moment, we thought we’d write a little blog about the history of the Great Bell and Elizabeth Tower, one of London’s most iconic structures and only a twenty minute tube ride from our apartments.



The Gothic Revival Tower celebrated its 150th anniversary on the 31st May 2009. When the Tower was completed in 1859 it was claimed to be “prince of timekeepers: the biggest, most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world”. Many people know the structure at the north end of the Palace of Westminster as Big Ben, but the tower itself is officially called the Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is the commonly known nickname of the Great Bell, the largest bell in the tower. The original bell to be used in the Tower was a 16 ton hour bell. Unfortunately it cracked beyond repair during testing and a replacement was made. Just a few months of use, however, and this too ending up cracking under the hammer.  Big Ben was out of service for the next few years until a lighter hammer was used with the bell given an eighth of a turn so the hammer would hit an undamaged section and a piece of metal was cut out of the soundbow. It is because of this that we had the distinctive sound we have heard for the last century.


The tower is a huge cultural symbol of London and the whole of the UK. As we’ve mentioned in one of our previous blogs, London is regularly used in film and media and these often showcase the city’s most iconic landmarks to indicate the location - a red double-decker bus and Big Ben in the background will easily make it recognizable to the viewer that they’re in London. In fact, it has been stated as the most iconic film location in the capital. Though the tower is not open to the public, many tourists and citizens visit London to see this magnificent tower. A survey out of 2,000 people came to the conclusion that the tower was the most popular landmark in the entire United Kingdom.



From this day however, the iconic “bongs” will be stopped for the next few years for renovations. Problems had been found which need to be rectified immediately to ensure this famous clock continues to be a functional cultural symbol for many years to come. For those wondering about New Year’s Eve or Remembrance Sunday, specialist clock mechanics will guarantee we will hear the celebrated chimes on those significant national events. The renovation project is also taking substantial care to ensure they conserve the important elements of the Tower as much as possible to reflect the original design.



We’re looking forward for the completed renovations and hope you are too. If you’re visiting London and looking for affordable and convenient accommodation – you should book with us now. Our serviced apartments are the perfect starting point for you to explore all that this wonderful capital has to offer, and at a great price too!