Saturday 10 March 2012

Big Ben

As we turn the clocks forward one hour tonight, let's look at what one survey calls the most popular landmark in London, England -- Big Ben.  The tower clock, located at the Westminster Palace on the River Thames, first started ticking on May 31, 1859, when Victorian London's population sat at a mere 2 million (it would double by 1900).  Named after Sir Benjamin Hall who installed the giant bell inside the tower, Big Ben is the largest four faced chiming clock in the world.  During World War I, for two years, the clock chimes were silenced and the clock face was darkened to prevent German zeppelin attacks.  I assume that the clock face was also darkened during the London Blitz in 1940 and 1941.  Apparently, though, the clock continued to chime despite having its dials damaged by a Luftwaffe raid.  On New Year's Eve 1962, ice and snow built up on the pendulum which detached itself from the rest of the clock, thereby preventing damage:  Big Ben rang in the New Year ten minutes late.  Its one and only major breakdown took place in 1976 and required 26 days of repairs.  Big Ben has been featured in several movies including James Bond's "Thunderball". Today, Big Ben continues to tick on cue.  Apparently, if Londoners request a tour from their Member of Parliament, they can tour the tower by climbing its over 300 steps.

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