The Big Ben Clock, is actually a misnomer; it is the bell inside structure that is named Big Ben. What many people call Big Ben Clock Tower was actually named the Clock Tower or Saint Stephens Tower. Nonetheless, most people know the entire structure as Big Ben in London. To mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II's 60 year reign as Queen, the tower was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012.
Famous around the world for keeping impeccable time, the Big Ben Clock became fully operational on September 7, 1859. Ben Ben in London is used to ring in the city's New Year and is a rallying point for the New Year's celebration of the entire country of England. The BBC also broadcasts the chiming of the bells on Remembrance Day to mark the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, which was the time and date of the Armistice that ended World War I. A famous symbol of Parliament and all things English throughout the world, the Big Ben Clock Tower is visible from many locations in London and just about all visitors return home with at least one photograph of the landmark.
As stated, Big Ben in London refers to the bell housed within the tower. The bell itself weighs almost 14 tons, and probably takes its name from the man who first ordered it cast, Sir Benjamin Hall. The four faces of the Big Ben Clock are each 23 feet in diameter, and the clock was biggest of its kind when it was constructed. It remains the largest clock in Great Britain. The hour hands are nine feet long, and the minute hands are 14 feet long. The entire tower is 316 feet high. Certain pieces of the clock face have been designed for easy removal, to allow for cleaning and maintenance of the hands. Remarkably durable, the clock continued to chime and to run accurately during World War II - even after Parliament was nearly destroyed by the bombs of the Blitz.
At the base of each clock face of Big Ben in London is a Latin inscription meaning, "Lord save our Queen Victoria I," since the Big Ben Clock Tower and the adjoining Westminster Palace were constructed during that Queen's reign. Today, the Palace of Westminster houses British Parliament sessions, and tourists can even view a session of Parliament for free. Over the years, Big Ben history has also come to include the changing of the tower itself. Due to ground conditions, the Big Ben Clock Tower now leans slightly to the Northwest, and also moves back and forth by a few millimeters each year. Though the clock has experienced slowing at various times through its history, the clock's legendary accuracy is maintained by placing pennies on the pendulum. The engineering of the clock is such that the actual mechanisms of the clock itself are well protected from climate changes and harsh weather.
UK citizens can climb the tower (all 334 steps) only by having advance reservations arranged by their Member of Parliament. Non UK citizens are only allowed to visit the Houses of Parliament - not climb the tower. The very best views of the Big Ben Clock Tower are from a boat on a Thames River cruise or from atop the London Eye Millennium Wheel across the river.