The History and Significance of Big Ben: London’s Most Famous Clock Tower

Clock Tower

London is one of the most iconic cities in the world, and one of its most famous landmarks is the clock tower known as Big Ben. For more than 150 years, this tower has served as a symbol of the city and a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the people who built it. In this article, we will explore the history and significance of Big Ben and examine why it has become such an enduring symbol of London.

The Origins of Big Ben

The story of Big Ben begins in the mid-19th century, during a time of great technological and industrial advancement in England. In 1834, a fire destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster, which was the home of the British Parliament. The government decided to rebuild the palace, and as part of the project, they commissioned a new clock tower to be built. Several architects submitted proposals for the tower, but the design by Charles Barry was ultimately chosen. Denison was known for his precision and attention to detail, and he set to work designing a clock that would be both reliable and accurate.

The Construction of Big Ben

Construction on the clock tower began in 1843, and it would take more than a decade to complete. Inside the tower, the clock mechanism was installed, with Denison overseeing every detail of its construction. The clock consisted of a series of gears, weights, and pendulums, all working together to keep time with remarkable accuracy. The hands of the clock were made of copper, and each one was more than 14 feet long. Finally, in 1859, the clock tower was complete. The tower and clock were officially named the Great Clock of Westminster, but they quickly became known as Big Ben, after the large bell that was housed in the tower.

The Significance of Big Ben

From the moment it was completed, Big Ben became an important symbol of London and the United Kingdom. But the significance of Big Ben goes beyond its role as a cultural icon. The clock tower also played an important role in the life of the British government. The clock also helped to establish the idea of standardized time, which was an important development in the history of modern civilization.

The Restoration of Big Ben

Like any historic structure, Big Ben has required periodic maintenance and restoration work over the years. The renovation work was necessary because the tower and clock mechanism had begun to show signs of wear and tear after more than 150 years of use. The clock faces were in need of repair, and the clock mechanism itself needed to be taken apart and cleaned. The restoration work began in August 2017 and is expected to take several years to complete. The project involves dismantling and repairing the clock mechanism, replacing the glass on the clock faces, and restoring the brick and stonework on the tower.


From its origins as a symbol of British ingenuity and technological advancement to its current status as a cultural icon, Big Ben has always been an important part of the city’s identity. As the tower undergoes its current renovation work, it is worth reflecting on the significance of this historic structure. Big Ben is more than just a clock tower, it is a symbol of London’s rich history and cultural heritage. And with its restoration, it will continue to serve as a reminder of the city’s past and a beacon of its future.


Q: Why is it called “Big Ben”?

A: The name “Big Ben” actually refers to the bell housed in the clock tower, rather than the tower itself. The bell was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw the installation of the bell.

Q: Can you visit Big Ben?

A: While the tower itself is not open to the public, visitors can take a guided tour of the Palace of Westminster, which includes a visit to the base of the clock tower and a view of the mechanism from a special observation platform.

Read More: The Royal Observatory: A Window into the History of Astronomy in London

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