Big Ben is one of London’s most iconic and popular tourist attractions. It’s a common misconception that the clock tower itself is called Big Ben; it’s actually the nickname of the largest of the tower’s five bells. The tower that houses Big Ben was originally called the Clock Tower but was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
When it was completed in 1859, the four-faced clock was both the largest and most accurate striking and chiming clock in the world. It is still the largest in the UK but no longer the world (that honour now goes to the Abraj Al Bait in Saudi Arabia). The scale of Big Ben is still hugely impressive; however, the tower is 315 feet high with the bottom 200 feet made of brickwork with limestone cladding and the remainder an intricate spire of cast iron. Each clock face is set in an iron frame measuring 23 feet in diameter, the hour hand is 9 feet long and the minute hand is 14 feet long. Unlike some clocks and most watches, none of the clock faces of Big Ben has a second hand. The clock looks particularly impressive at night when it is lit up by induction lighting, a type of lighting resistant to vibrations and with ultra-long life. Perfect for a structure where ongoing maintenance is difficult and expensive.