When taking the tube exiting at Westminster or St. James Park stations, or the Waterloo train station just across the Thames from Westminster palace, the recognizable sight greeting travellers jutting against the London skyline would be the London Clock Tower or collectively known as the Big Ben– a magnificent work of art, a muted yet persistent presence to native Londoners and sojourners. Certainly, imperfect are the days without the recognizable distant toll of the bells from the Tower principally that of the faithful and reliable 13-ton – the original piece bestowed the nick good ol, Big Ben.
As each hour is faithfully chimed on the dot time and again, the resonance is not only an arresting reminder of the passage of moments but also of the clock tower’s affluent historic past. Figuratively speaking, it’s almost certainly one of the perfect exemplar manifested that “impossible” is an unsettled perception. The clock tower of London was said to have been the biggest timepiece ever attempted to be built during its time and many people even doubted the project’s realization particularly the part on guaranteeing the utmost accuracy of the clock driving striking mechanisms. Most clockmakers swayed opinion for much lesser prerequisites than what Astronomer Royal, George Airy exacted, saying they were too complicated and unattainable. Years passed and after much deliberate tests, the clock and its tower became operational with the specifications followed to the latter and still very much in good shape today.
Above: London’s clock tower, Big Ben
The tower itself has a total height of 316 feet, its belfry a good 200 feet and 290 steps make up to the clockroom and 340 to the belfry. The four dials on the face of the clock has a diameter each of 23 feet and each dial contains 312 glass panes (not 365 as believed) where 28 bulbs from behind emits light for each dial. The hour hands are 9 feet long and weigh 2.5 cwt and each Roman numeral is two feet. The bells, all were designed distinctively with the four quarter chiming bells to sound in the key of F and weighs in order of 1-ton, 1.25-ton, 1.6 tons and 3.5 tons; sounding in the note of E is the biggest of the lot and the most-loved – Big Ben.
As anyone ventures into London, the clock tower – a magnificent work of art proposes an inexplicable joy – resembling that same joy one senses when seeing old friends. Makes one think of a popular American song by the Jackson 5…Ben, the two of us need look no more, we both found what we were looking for, with a friend to call my own, i’ll never be alone, and you my friend will see, you’ve got a friend in me… I used to say, I and me, now it’s us, now it’s we…