Mental Floss

The Quick 10: Big Ben Turns 150!

Stacy Conradt
facebooktwitterreddit

On Sunday, everyone's favorite British Bell celebrated its sesquicentennial "“ yup, Big Ben turned 150. We're a little late in wishing it happy anniversary, but better late than never, right? Here are a few birthday facts about Big Ben and her Clock Tower.

night
night /

3. There's a Latin inscription under each clock dial. They all say the same thing: "Domine Salvam fac Reginam nostrum Victoriam primam" which means "O Lord, save our Queen Victoria the First."

foundry
foundry /

5. The second bell was too big to fit up the Clock Tower's shaft vertically, so it was turned sideways and winched up. It took about 30 hours to get it into place.

6. Here's what it looks like chiming.

7. Despite a very impressive history of being almost perfectly on time, even after a bomb struck it during WWII, Big Ben and the clock have fallen silent several times throughout history. A few of these instances include:
"¢ For two years during WWI, it was silenced as so not to attract attention from the German zeppelins.
"¢ In 1962, heavy snow accumulation on the clock's hands made it ring in the New Year about 10 minutes late.
"¢ In 1949, a flock of starlings decided the minute hand would make a good perch. Their combined weight slowed the hand by 4.5 minutes.

cleaning
cleaning /
sweeney
sweeney /

Perhaps this makes me hopelessly uncultured, but I can't see the Clock Tower without thinking, "Hey look kids! There's Big Ben, and there's Parliament!" "Kids... Big Ben. Parliament, again."

facebooktwitterreddit