July 11, 2009

Big Ben turns 150

Big Ben, the world's most famous bell ringing out the hours on the world's most famous clock, celebrated its 150th anniversary Saturday in London.

A message was projected on the clock, The Daily Telegraph reported: Happy Birthday, Big Ben, 150 years, 1859-2009.

Most people use the name Big Ben to refer to the clock on the Houses of Parliament clock tower or to the entire tower. But the name originally applied only to the bell, which weighs almost 14 tons.

After 150 years, Big Ben still holds a special place in the hearts of Londoners and the world as a magnificent example of engineering and building genius, Mike McCann, Keeper of the Great Clock, said.

He might also be talking about the British talent for muddling through, since the bell cracked within weeks of its first sounding and was not rung again for about four years. Big Ben was heard again in 1863 after the bell was turned and a lighter hammer put in use.

The name is believed to honor Sir Benjamin Hall, the first commissioner of public works and buildings.