martes, 19 de mayo de 2009

What do you Know about the Big Ben?
2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the Clock Tower, The Big Ben.
The Clock Tower you see today is not the first tower to be built in Parliament’s grounds.
The original tower was built in 1288-90 during the reign of King Edward I. It was located on the north side of New Palace Yard and contained a bell and clock. The bell, first named 'Great Edward' and later known as 'Great Tom', struck on the hour.
A second tower replaced the original in 1367. This was the first public chiming clock in England. By 1707, this tower was demolished. A sundial was put up in its place.
A terrible fire destroyed most of the Palace of Westminster in 1834. Construction of the Clock Tower began in September 1843. This is the iconic tower which stands today in the Houses of Parliament.
Dimensions: over 96 metres and 12 metres square Steps to belfry: 334 Steps to lantern (the Ayrton Light): 393
Contrary to popular belief, ‘Big Ben’ is not the name of the tower itself but the bell that chimes the tune. Some people claim that it borrowed its name from the heavyweight championship boxer, Benjamin Caunt. But it was more likely an affectionate tribute to Sir Benjamin Hall, who supervised the installation.
Big Ben’s clock mechanism was designed by London’s top barrister of the day, Edmund Beckett Denison and was quite revolutionary. It was the biggest clock of its time, and remains one of the world’s largest timepieces today.
At the base of each face is the Latin inscription

which translates as Lord save our Queen Victoria I.
Big Ben consists of one big bell and four smaller bells at the side. The big one is eight feet in diameter and weighs an incredible 13½ tonnes. Many people think that it is the heaviest bell in Britain – but it actually comes in third behind Great Paul in St. Paul's cathedral, and Great George in Liverpool.
The bigger bell is decorated with Royal Arms and portcullis of Westminster. It also has an inscription around the rim which reads:
This bell was cast by George Mears of Whitechapel for the clock of the Houses of Parliament under the direction of Edmund Becket Denison QC in the 21st year of the reign of Queen Victoria in the year of our Lord MDCCCLVIII.
Although there are no real lyrics to the tune, some simple words have evolved over the years:
All through this hour, Lord be my guide; And by thy power, no foot shall slide.

Big Ben is one of London's best-known landmarks, and looks most spectacular at night when the clock faces are illuminated. You even know when parliament is in session, because a light shines above the clock face.
The four dials of the clock are 23 feet square, the minute hand is 14 feet long and the figures are 2 feet high. Minutely regulated with a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum, Big Ben is an excellent timekeeper, which has rarely stopped.
This bell came originally from the old Palace of Westminster, it was given to the Dean of St. Paul's by William III. Before returning to Westminster to hang in its present home, it was refashioned in Whitechapel in 1858. The BBC first broadcast the chimes on the 31st December 1923 - there is a microphone in the turret connected to Broadcasting House.
There are even cells within the clock tower where Members of Parliament can be imprisoned for a breach of parliamentary privilege, though this is rare; the last recorded case was in 1880.
The tower is not open to the general public, but those with a "special interest" may arrange a visit to the top of the Clock Tower through their local (UK) MP.
You can see a video about The Big Ben

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