Saturday, 11 July 2009

In praise of Big Ben

Like the queen, Big Ben has two birthdays. Today marks the 150th anniversary of the first chime, although the clock started ticking on 31st May 1859, and the quarter chimes were added on 7th of September that year.

Big Ben was originally the name given to the bell. It has chimed in the hours, centuries and millennium. It only lasted two months, before cracking, after it was first installed. Over the years it has suffered damage from various causes, but has been skilfully repaired.

The clock has been a steadfast icon, in happy times and sad ones - marking the passage of time for all of us. It is a magnificent example of Victorian engineering, and was once the most accurate and well maintained clock in the world. It needs winding up three times a week.

Last year Big Ben was voted Britain’s favourite attraction.

After sunset today, the message ‘Happy Birthday Big Ben 150 years 1859-2009’ will appear on the tower.
I love the reassuring sound of the chimes, and wish this symbol of Britain a long and happy future.

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