Why is Big Ben called Big Ben? History behind London landmark and its tower

Big Ben is one of the most famous images of London with the towering time-piece standing proud in the heart of the city. Located next to the Houses of Parliament in London’s Westminster, the enormous 14-tonne bell can be found at the top of the recently re-constructed clock tower. With a rich history dating back to the 1800s, what’s the real story behind the iconic name of this striking landmark?

The famous structure has been under re-construction since 2017 as part of a multi-million pound renovation project.

Since work began, the price tag of Big Ben’s new look is thought to have a sky-rocketed to around £80 million.

While the work will give the clock tower a much-needed refresh, the famous name will remain the same.

Though many people refer to the whole structure as Big Ben – this unique name really only refers to the bell, not the tower itself.

As one of the most commonly misidentified landmarks in the world, the true story of how the Big Ben came to be named is a mystery for many.

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Where did Big Ben get its name?

With such a long history behind it, the actual origins of the name Big Ben are not entirely known.

Based on historical memoirs, a few theories have arisen which speculate the original source of the famous bell.

One theory says the bell which sits in the tall tower was named after Sir Benjamin Hall – the first commissioner of works under Queen Victoria’s reign.

Sir Hall is renowned for his role as the politician who oversaw the later stages of the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament, which included the installation of the infamous bell.

Commonly known to his close peers as ‘Big Ben’, the theory suggests that the chiming bell is named after the man himself.

While there is no documentary evidence, the timeless tale goes that Sir Benjamin Hall delivered a long speech about what to name the bell during a parliamentary debate discussing the matter.

An alternative theory behind the unique name is that the bell got its name from a champion heavyweight boxer of the 1850’s.

Known as Ben Caunt, the 18 stone boxer was referred to as ‘Big Ben’.

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What is Big Ben’s tower called?

The unmissable tower that houses the well-known bell is called the Elizabeth Tower.

In 2022 it will mark 10 years since the tower was renamed in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

Over the years, the tower has had many names and was previously known as the Clock Tower up until 2012.

Other names related to the tower include St Stephen’s Tower, The East Tower and of course, Big Ben.

With the Platinum Jubilee expected to be celebrated in 2022, it raises the question of whether another renaming will take place to celebrate the Queen’s 70-year reign.

When was Big Ben built?

Big Ben – the name given to the great bell – was installed in the Palace of Westminster clock tower in 1859.

Its iconic chimes were first recorded by the BBC on New Year’s Eve in 1923 and have been recorded twice a day by the public broadcaster ever since.

Britain magazine said: “Architect Charles Barry’s original designs to replace the old Palace of Westminster, after the catastrophic fire of 1834, didn’t even include a clock tower.

“The design for the current tower, known since 2012 as the Elizabeth Tower in honour of HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, was only added a couple of years later, with the help of fellow architect Augustus Pugin.”

More recently, work has been done to spruce up Big Ben’s clock face, which has been restored to its original blue colouring.

Attached to the Houses of Parliament, the landmark remains a symbol of British democracy to this day.

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