The history of the Big Ben Clock Tower
at Westminster dates back to the 13th Century but the tower as we now know it
has its roots in 19th Century Britain.
The inner workings of the Clock
Tower’s Belfry are beautiful to behold. Truly a master-stroke of design and
implementation, it was revolutionary for its time. It is still lauded for the
innovation of its creator, Edmund Beckett Denison. His achievement is all the
more impressive because he wasn’t even a professional clock maker. To him, it
was a part-time hobby between life as a barrister and an MP.
George Airy had issued requirements
that many clock makers had found fanciful and impossible to achieve. Among those
conditions was a desire for complete precision in the clock’s time-keeping.
Denison's ‘Double Three-Legged Gravity Escapement’ guaranteed the clock’s
accuracy by ensuring that the pendulum was impervious to external factors.
It provided the best gap between the pendulum and the clock mechanism, thus
assuring its dependability.
The clock is famous for its
reliability and has steadily kept time ever since its inception. Except for a
The bell cracked just three
months after it was installed. This was eventually corrected and has
given Big Ben its distinctive sound.
1939-1945 – the illumination of
the clocks was stopped to conform with the blackout rules.
1976 – Big Ben remained
chime-less for nine months after the clock mechanism exploded, causing heavy
2007 – Silence for seven weeks as
the clock underwent essential maintenance ahead of its 150th birthday in