A Quick History of Big Ben

Red Bus at Big Ben

It’s hailed as one of the most famous clocks in the world and is a true symbol of the city of London, but just how did Big Ben come to be so iconic?

Standing at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, the clock is one of the major pulls for visiting London, with millions of tourists flocking to the city every year to see this landmark, amongst others.

Interested in learning more about Big Ben? Read our blog for a brief history of this very British cultural icon.

Big Ben

After a visit to Big Ben and some of the other significant tourist spots in London, head back to your room at the Park Grand London Kensington Hotel for an evening of relaxation. Fancy hitting the town after dark? Big Ben lights up when the sun goes down so it’s worth paying it another visit as it looks really spectacular at night time.

When was Big Ben built?

The official name for Big Ben is Elizabeth Tower, which was raised as part of Charles Barry’s design for a new palace following a large fire that destroyed the majority of the old Palace of Westminster in 1834. The new structure was built by Barry in a neo-gothic style and while he was the chief architect for the palace, he turned to Augustus Pugin for help designing the clock tower. The tower was Pugin’s final design before he eventually descended into madness and death. In April 1858 the bells of the clock were replaced and in July 1859, the chimes rang for the first time. In the September of 1859, the great bell cracked and was subsequently taken out of commission.

Fancy visiting some of the other iconic landmarks in London? Why not take a tour then head back to one of our hotels near Earl’s Court tube station? Your room offers the perfect location for either relaxing or getting ready for a night on the town.

What is Big Ben made of?

Materials to produce the Elizabeth Tower came from all over the United Kingdom, with cast iron girders from Regent’s Canal Ironworks being used. Yorkshire Anston stone and Cornish granite were used on the exterior and a Birmingham foundry supplied the Elizabeth Tower’s iron roofing plates. The clock weighs around 13.5 tons but would be more than twice as heavy if it had been made of gold.

The restoration

Currently, the Great Clock is undergoing a £29 million restoration which is set to take four years to complete. The clock chimed for the last time in August as it will be falling silent for the duration of the restoration, which is the longest period of time that is has been silent for in its 158-year history.

After exploring Big Ben and the city of London by foot, stroll back to your room at the Park Grand London Kensington Hotel for a relaxing evening soaking in the tub and getting an early night.

Big Ben is just one of many beautiful historic landmarks that dot London – if you’re planning your next trip to our photogenic city, browse the rest of our blog articles for our top suggestions on where to go, what to see and insider guides to the city’s many neighbourhoods.


1. How accurate is Big Ben?

The BBC reports the iconic clock tower has been running up to six seconds late, according to clock smith Ian Westworth. Big Ben is typically accurate to within two seconds of the actual time, with Westworth describing the clock’s current behavior as “temperamental”. Read more

2. How far can Big Ben be heard?

Before London was built up Big Ben could be heard further than nine miles. But it can now be heard as far away as nine miles.