The Elizabeth Tower is the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster in London, England. It contains the Great Clock, a striking clock with five bells. The tower is nicknamed "Big Ben", a name which was originally applied only to the largest bell of the clock.
The tower was officially called the Clock Tower until 2012, when it was renamed to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
Probably one of the most recognizable tourist attractions around the World. I first had a chance to visit it, in August 2023, during my birthday trip to London.
The tower was designed by Augustus Pugin in a Perpendicular Gothic Revival style and was completed in 1859. It is elaborately decorated and includes symbols related to the four nations of the United Kingdom, the Tudor dynasty, and a Latin inscription to Queen Victoria.
The tower stands 316 feet (96 m) tall, and the climb from ground level to the belfry is 334 steps. Its base is square, measuring 40 feet (12 m) on each side. The dials of the clock are 22.5 feet (6.9 m) in diameter.
Elizabeth Tower, originally named the Clock Tower, and popularly known as "Big Ben", was built as a part of Charles Barry's design for a new Palace of Westminster after the old palace was largely destroyed by fire on 16 October 1834.
Although Barry was the chief architect of the neo-gothic palace, he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the Clock Tower, which resembles earlier Pugin designs, including one for Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire.
Construction of the tower began on 28 September 1843. The building contractors were Thomas Grissell and Morton Peto. An inscribed trowel now in the Parliamentary Archives records that Emily, sister of Peto's daughter-in-law, was given the honour of laying the first stone.
It was Pugin's last design before his descent into mental illness and death in 1852, and Pugin himself wrote, at the time of Barry's last visit to him to collect the drawings: "I never worked so hard in my life for Mr Barry for tomorrow I render all my designs for finishing his bell tower and it is beautiful".
The Elizabeth Tower is a British cultural icon. It is one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and parliamentary democracy, and it is often used in the establishing shot of films set in London. The clock tower has been part of a Grade I listed building since 1970 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The fabric was repaired and renovated between 2017 and 2021, during which the bells remained silent with few exceptions.