Ben has become a symbol of 'All Things British': it is an icon of the UK
and London and is famous around the world for keeping impeccable time, which
it has done since it became fully operational in September, 1859. It is
the world's largest four-faced chiming clock. Most people refer to the entire
tower as 'Big Ben'but, strictly speaking, this refers to the large bell,
weighing over thirteen and a half tons, housed within the tower. The bell
was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. It is also generally
thought that it is named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who was at the time Parliamentary
Commissioner of Works. The base of each of the clock faces bears the Latin
inscription "Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostram Victoriam Primam"
(Oh Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First).
The tower was raised as part of a new Palace of Westminster after the old Palace was destroyed by fire in October, 1834. Charles Barry was the Chief Architect of the Palace and Augustus Pugin was consulted about the design of the tower, which is in Pugin's celebrated Gothic Revival style. Big Ben has appeared in many films, most notably in the 1978 version of The Thirty Nine Steps. Television's News at Ten features an image of the Clock Tower and the clock chimes continue to be used during headlines and news bulletins. The chimes were first broadcast on New Year's Eve in 1923 and are still today the focus of New Year celebrations. They also mark the start of the two minutes silence on Remembrance Day, November 11th.