London's Big Ben celebrates 150th Birthday on May 31
London's Big Ben will be celebrating its 150th birthday on May 31st. Located at the north-eastern end of the Palace of Westminster in London, the Clock Tower is also referred to as Big Ben.
Big Ben is the world's largest four-faced chiming clock and stands 314-feet high. There is no elevator so for the few that is granted admission, they must climb 334 limestone stairs. The old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire on October 22, 1834 therefore Charles Barry designed the present tower as a part of the new palace. May 31, 1859 the clock officially started keeping time.
The chime of Big Ben is based on four notes from Handel's Messiah and rings out every fifteen minutes as the bongs of Big Ben is heard every hour.
Big Ben Minute was a term coined during World War 2 when the people of Britain observed a minute of silence as the clock strikes nine. The sound of Big Ben can still be heard amidst the bombs of the Germans and air raid sirens.
Big Ben got its nickname from Sir Benjamin Hall who oversaw the installation of the Great Bell, but many argued that it is named after English Heavyweight Champion Benjamin Caunt.
No special events are planned to commemorate the 150th birthday of Big Ben, but there is an exhibition at Portcullis House, a parliamentary office complex set to open on September 19.
On May 31, 1859 the clock officially started keeping time. Big Ben — the origin of the name is disputed — started tolling a few days later, but within months it cracked again and didn't resume service until 1862.
At first lawmakers complained that it was too loud, while the Times of London lamented that the blunders surrounding the project were "a disgrace to all concerned in it."