Thursday, May 31, 2012

Big Ben Starts Keeping Time...!

Nice to know that some pieces with such a rich history are still in operation.

This is the first thing I think about when I think of England! Considering all it's been through, it's really amazing that the old time piece is still functioning!

May 31, 1859:
Big Ben goes into operation in London

The famous tower clock known as Big Ben, located at the top of the 320-foot-high St. Stephen's Tower, rings out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, for the first time on this day in 1859.

After a fire destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster--the headquarters of the British Parliament--in October 1834, a standout feature of the design for the new palace was a large clock atop a tower. The royal astronomer, Sir George Airy, wanted the clock to have pinpoint accuracy, including twice-a-day checks with the Royal Greenwich Observatory. While many clockmakers dismissed this goal as impossible, Airy counted on the help of Edmund Beckett Denison, a formidable barrister known for his expertise in horology, or the science of measuring time.

Denison's design, built by the company E.J. Dent & Co., was completed in 1854; five years later, St. Stephen's Tower itself was finished. Weighing in at more than 13 tons, its massive bell was dragged to the tower through the streets of London by a team of 16 horses, to the cheers of onlookers. Once it was installed, Big Ben struck its first chimes on May 31, 1859. Just two months later, however, the heavy striker designed by Denison cracked the bell. Three more years passed before a lighter hammer was added and the clock went into service again. The bell was rotated so that the hammer would strike another surface, but the crack was never repaired.

The name "Big Ben" originally just applied to the bell but later came to refer to the clock itself. Two main stories exist about how Big Ben got its name. Many claim it was named after the famously long-winded Sir Benjamin Hall, the London commissioner of works at the time it was built. Another famous story argues that the bell was named for the popular heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt, because it was the largest of its kind.

Even after an incendiary bomb destroyed the chamber of the House of Commons during the Second World War, St. Stephen's Tower survived, and Big Ben continued to function. Its famously accurate timekeeping is regulated by a stack of coins placed on the clock's huge pendulum, ensuring a steady movement of the clock hands at all times. At night, all four of the clock’s faces, each one 23 feet across, are illuminated. A light above Big Ben is also lit to let the public know when Parliament is in session.

If Ben is still working after all these years, then maybe there is hope for me. If I can still function this well after having a few more years on me, I'll be a happy camper!

Coffee on the patio this morning! Supposed to start raining tonight, but for now it's pretty nice!


Gorges Smythe said...

Interesting! BTW, I'm often here, but seldom comment. It's a time thing! ;-)

Sixbears said...

Just like us, a bit cracked but keeps on ticking.

Ben in Texas said...

I would like to see my Namesake some day. There's still hope for trip to the UK I guess.

linda m said...

i agree with you, Jim. I hope I can keep on ticking after all these years. I've made it this far so maybe there is hope. :) Raining here in WI this morning.

JOJO said...

Great Post this morning. It is amazing how it still keeps working. Clocks or watches today are a sad afair.

We are getting to the point of needed some of that rain.
Coffee on the patio is a great way to start the day.

HermitJim said...

Hey Gorges...
I can certainly understand the time thing...seems like I just don't have enough anymore!

I'm certainly glad you came by for a visit this morning!

Hey Sixbears...
That pretty much sums it up, I think!

Thanks for coming over today, my friend.

Hey Ben...
Can't ever tell, buddy! One of these days (when you hit the lotto) you may get to take the trip!

You have a great day, and thanks for coming by!

Hey Linda...
Guess we should be thankful we are still going!

Maybe we can hold up as well as Big Ben!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey JoJo...
When Ben was built, clock making was an art! Took a very skilled person to make one from scratch!

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over today!

Dizzy-Dick said...

Wow, still working after all this time. They sure don't make things like they use to.

HermitJim said...

Hey Dizzy...
We could sure use some of that old world type craftsmanship today!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

chinasyndrome said...

I wonder what kind of coins are in the stack?