Big Ben is one of the most recognizable symbols of Britain. He can be seen in films, TV series, cartoons, he is often mentioned in various books. The history of the appearance of this huge clock is rather unusual.
How it all began?
The history of the creation of this watch begins in 1844. A famous architect named Charles Bury, who was involved in the construction of Westminster Palace, put forward a proposal to place an unusual clock on St. Stephen's Tower. This watch was supposed to be the most accurate and largest in the world.
Parliament supported the idea. The project was developed by a mechanic named Benjamin Valiami, and George Airey, a famous astronomer, joined the project. After a very short time, disagreements arose between them. George Airy proposed to link the projected clock by telegraph to the existing Greenwich Observatory in order to control its accuracy. Valiami believed that this idea was not feasible. The debate of the masters stretched out for five years, as a result, Benjamin Valiami's project was simply rejected.
Mechanic Dent was hired to create the new project. He was able to achieve the required accuracy, but the watch mechanism weighed five tons. In addition, the dimensions of both the dial and the movement were very impressive. So the height of the main bell of the future clock exceeded two meters, the diameter exceeded three meters, and the length of the pendulum was four meters. The hour hands of the watch were originally made of cast iron, while the minute hands were made of copper. But after the installation of the watch, it was decided to replace the heavy cast-iron hands with hands made of lighter metal.
The grand opening of the new watch took place on May 31, 1859. Initially, all four dials were illuminated with gas burners, but in 1912 all lighting became electric. Big Ben's error was simply incredible for that time - one and a half to two seconds a day. It should be noted that the watchmaker managed to solve the problem with this error in a completely unexpected way. The precision of this sophisticated mechanism can be adjusted with a penny coin. It is enough to put or remove it from the pendulum. This method is still used today.
It is unknown who exactly gave Big Ben his name. There are two versions. The first says that the watch was named after the famous boxer Benjamin Count, the second claims that the watch was named after Benjamin Hall, who headed the parliamentary commission that took the watch. Both contenders were impressive in size, so the nickname Big Ben, that is, "Big Ben", suited both of them.