“The clock was installed in the Clock Tower in April 1859”

Big Ben2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the current UK parliamentary clock tower, the installation of the clock, and the first chiming of the bell, Big Ben. The UK’s parliamentary website is hosting a mini-site on the anniversary detailing the history of earlier towers, and a sundial, as well as the delays in building the current one. There are also some images from the Parliamentary Works of Art collection. Adds In the comments zone Rory reminded me that a leap second was added to the end of last year, and this BBC report on that extra second includes a fascinating look at the clock mechanism designed by Edmund Beckett Denison.

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  • Rory Carr


    I heard on a Radio 4 programme recently that, well into the 20th century, men would still telephone Greenwich in order to set their clocks and watches correctly and this despite the ready availability of the ‘pips’ that preceded each hourly BBC news bulletin. I am sorry to say that I cannot recall the name of the programme – it was an item on this year’s ‘leap second’.

    Still a little titbit allied to ‘Big Bennism’ which at least made me feel better about my preference for eschewing the electrical dishwasher in favour of a good old sudsy sink.

  • Pete Baker

    Cheers Rory.

    Couldn’t find that reference but I’ve added link to a great short video of the mechanism [including the pre-decimal pennies].

  • Rory Carr

    Just we two then so far, Pete? A bit Becketesque.

    Tick tock.

  • pith

    I once had the privilege of seeing the mechanism and the rest of the interior of the clock tower. It is a fascinating piece of machinery topped off with the make do and mend use of the old pennies. I think Mrs Pankhurst was the last person to be held prisoner in the cell at the base of the tower. Apparently the original idea was to call the tower the Albert Tower to correspond to the Victoria Tower at the other end of the palace. I could go on…..