The nick name Big Ben is usually used to describe the clock, the tower which houses it (designed by Pugin) as well as the large bell lodged inside. Purists prefer to reserve the term for the large or great bell though there is some uncertainly as to the 'Ben' the nick name derives from.
There are two contenders the commissioner of the works Sir Benjamin Hall and a heavyweight boxer of the time of its casting Benjamin Caunt.
During the second world war there was heavy bombing on London including on the Palace of Westminster. The chamber of the House of Commons was destroyed and whilst the clock face of Big Ben was damaged the clock never stopped working or chiming the quarter hours as it still does today.
- The clock was first started on May 31, 1859. Big Ben first struck the hour on July 11 that year
- The BBC first broadcast the chimes on December 31, 1923
- The chimes are based on Handel’s Messiah, a phrase from the aria I Know that My Redeemer Liveth. They were set to verse and the words inscribed on a plaque in the clock room: All through this hour Lord be my Guide That by Thy Power No foot shall slide
- When a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber in 1941, glass was blown out of the south dial but the clock kept going