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Big Ben


Find out about the building of the tower that houses Big Ben, and the adventures of the bell itself. We re-create the Old Palace of Westminster that stood on the site before the fire of 1834

Big Ben: the Basics

Is there a landmark that more immediately shouts "England" than the tower of the Palace of Westminster? It’s the quickest way for film-makers to establish that the action has switched to London. Its huge clock faces and solid construction look built to last, as well they might: they arose from the ashes of the 19th-century fire that laid waste to the old Westminster.

Big Ben: the Basics
The Old Palace of Westminster

The Old Palace of Westminster

Most of what we see when we look at the Houses of Parliament today is relatively recent. The Gothic façade and the famous clock tower that houses Big Ben were only built in the middle of the 19th century. There had been a palace on this site, though, for 800 years before that.

Installing Big Ben

The present-day appearance of the most famous parliament building in the world dates only from the mid-19th century. Even though parliaments had been meeting on this site since medieval times, most of the old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire on October 16, 1834. The buildings that arose from its ashes were to make this part of central London internationally known, with the famous clock tower their iconic centrepiece.

Installing Big Ben

The Houses of Parliament

The Tower that houses Big Ben stands as the centrepiece of the Houses of Parliament that were rebuilt in the 19th century. Join us for TV historian Dan Snow's brief guide to this internationally known landmark