I studied abroad at Oxford University this past spring semester, and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit London a few times. While I was there I met this tall gentleman. Here is my friend Ben, he’s the clock tower in the background. Actually, Big Ben is the nickname of the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, where the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet.
The tower is now officially called the Elizabeth tower–it was given this new name last year for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The tower was completed in 1859 and its 315 feet high. It was designed by Augustus Pugin, which was his last design before he went mad and died.
The inside of the tower is not open for foreign tourists. However, if your a citizen of the United Kingdom, you can try to arrange a visit with a member of parliament. But if you do get a chance to visit the interior of the tower, bring some good walking shoes because there are 334 steps to reach the top.
The clock is very reliable, and small stack of old pennies, on top of the pendulum, are used to adjust the time of the clock. Adding a coin has the effect of minutely lifting the position of the pendulum’s centre of mass, reducing the effective length of the pendulum rod and hence increasing the rate at which the pendulum swings. Adding or removing a penny will change the clock’s speed by 0.4 seconds per day. Interesting fact: During the German Blitzkrieg, the clock tower continued to chime and run accurately, despite receiving some damage.
So there he is ladies and gentleman. My friend, Big Ben. Cheers!