Westminster Palace Descriptive Essay

  • Report from the Select Committee on House of Commons Buildings; together with the minutes of evidence taken before them, Parliamentary Paper (PP.) 1833 (17).

  • Report from the Select Committee on the House of Commons’ Buildings; with the minutes of evidence taken before them, PP. 1833 (269).

  • Report from the Select Committee on Rebuilding Houses of Parliament; with the minutes of evidence, and an appendix, PP. 1835 (262).

  • Report from the Select Committee on the Admission of Ladies to the Strangers’ Gallery; with the minutes of evidence, PP. 1835 (437).

  • Report from Select Committee on the Ventilation of the Houses of Parliament; with the minutes of evidence, PP. 1835 (583).

  • Houses of Parliament Plans. Report of commissioners appointed to consider the plans for building the new Houses of Parliament, PP. 1836 (66).

  • Report from Select Committee on Houses of Parliament; with the minutes of evidence, PP. 1836 (245).

  • Ventilation of the House. Copy of a letter from Dr. Reid to Lord Duncannon, dated February 4th, 1837, relative to the acoustic and ventilating arrangements lately made in the House of Commons, PP. 1837 (21).

  • Report from the Select Committee on the Thames Tunnel; with the minutes of evidence, PP. 1837 (499).

  • Ventilation of the House. Copy of a letter from Sir Frederick Trench to Lord Viscount Duncannon, on the subject of ventilating the House of Commons, with Lord Duncannon’s answer, PP. 1837–38 (204).

  • Ventilation of the House. Copy of a letter from Dr. Reid to the Viscount Duncannon, in reply to observations addressed to His Lordship by Sir Frederick Trench, PP. 1837–38 (277).

  • Ventilation and lighting of the House. Letters from Sir Frederick Trench to Lord Duncannon, on the subject of ventilation and lighting the House of Commons, PP. 1837–38 (358).

  • Ventilation of the House. Return of the detailed expenses incurred in experiments for improving the ventilation, &c. of the House of Commons, in the experiment of lighting with gas, also in lighting with candles, ending with the present lustres and shades, PP. 1837–38 (725).

  • Hume, Joseph, Report from the select committee on lighting the House; together with the minutes of evidence, appendix and index, PP. 1839 (501).

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  • Lemon, Charles, Report from the select committee on lighting the House; together with the minutes of evidence, and appendix, PP. 1842 (251).

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  • First Reports of the Commissioners for inquiring into the state of large towns and populous districts, PP. 1844 (572).

  • Brought from the Lords, 9 August 1844. Second Report from the select committee of the House of Lords appointed to inquire into the progress of the building of the Houses of Parliament, and to report thereon to the house; with the minutes of evidence taken before the committee, PP. 1844 (629).

  • Report from the Select Committee on Westminster Bridge and new Palace, PP. 1846 (177).

  • Second report from the Select Committee on Westminster Bridge and new Palace, PP. 1846 (349).

  • Third Report from the Select Committee on Westminster Bridge and new Palace; together with the minutes of evidence, appendix, and index, PP. 1846 (574).

  • Reports from the Select Committee of the House of Lords appointed to inquire into the progress of the building of the Houses of Parliament, and to report thereon to the house: together with the minutes of evidence taken before the said committee, PP. 1846 (719).

  • First report from the select committee on new House of Commons, PP. 1850 (650, 650-II).

  • Second Report from the Select Committee on Ventilation and Lighting of the House; together with the proceedings of the committee, minutes of evidence, appendix and index, PP. 1852 (402).

  • Atkins, S. Elliott, Copy of the Memorial presented to Her Majesty’s Commissioners of Works and Public Buildings by the Clockmakers’ Company of London, respecting the great clock to be erected at the new Palace at Westminster; together with the answer thereto, PP. 1852 (415).

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  • What is Big Ben?

    The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, commonly called Big Ben, are among London's most iconic landmarks and must-see London attractions. Technically, Big Ben is the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons (13,760 kg).  The clock tower looks spectacular at night when the four clock faces are illuminated.

     Big Ben facts

    • Each dial is seven metres in diameter
    • The minute hands are 4.2 metres long (14ft) and weigh about 100kg (220lbs, including counterweights)
    • The numbers are approximately 60cm (23in) long
    • There are 312 pieces of glass in each clock dial
    • A special light above the clock faces is illuminated when parliament is in session
    • Big Ben's timekeeping is strictly regulated by a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum. 
    • Big Ben has rarely stopped. Even after a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during the Second World War, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to strike the hours.
    • The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC on 31 December 1923, a tradition that continues to this day.
    • The latin words under the clockface read DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM, which means "O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First"
    • In June 2012 the House of Commons announced that the clock tower was to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.  

    When was Big Ben built?

    The Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire in 1834. In 1844, it was decided the new buildings for the Houses of Parliament should include a tower and a clock. 

    A massive bell was required and the first attempt (made by John Warner & Sons at Stockton-on-Tees) cracked irreparably. The metal was melted down and the bell recast in Whitechapel in 1858. Big Ben first rang across Westminster on 31 May 1859. A short time later, in September 1859, Big Ben cracked. A lighter hammer was fitted and the bell rotated to present an undamaged section to the hammer. This is the bell as we hear it today.

    How tall is Big Ben?

    Elizabeth Tower stands at over 96 metres (105yrds) tall, with 334 steps to climb up to the belfry and 399 steps to the Ayrton Light at the very top of the tower.

    Where is Big Ben?

    Big Ben is found in the Elizabeth Tower at the north end of The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, Central London, next to the river Thames.

    There are a several London bus routes that go past the tower, and Westminster Tube station is directly across the road, serviced by the Jubilee, District and Circle lines. Westminster pier is next to the tower and is served by a number of river bus travel options.

    Why is Big Ben called Big Ben?

    The origin of the name Big Ben is not known, although two different theories exist.

    • The first is that is was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the first commissioner of works, a large man who was known affectionately in the house as "Big Ben".
    • The second theory is that it was named after a heavyweight boxing champion at that time, Benjamin Caunt. Also known as "Big Ben", this nickname was commonly bestowed in society to anything that was the heaviest in its class.

    Big Ben chimes

    Ever wanted to hear what Big Ben sounds like at midday?

    Watch video on YouTube

    Inside Big Ben and how to visit

    Big Ben is one of London's top attractions. Although the tower is not open to the general public, UK residents can arrange a visit by writing to their MP. Applications should be made in writing, as far in advance as possible, to:

    House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA

    It is not possible for overseas visitors to tour the clock tower. Instead, take a tour of the Houses of Parliament next to The Elizabeth Tower. Alternatively, watch this behind-the-scenes video of Big Ben in action.

    Watch video on YouTube

    Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower refurbishment work

    In August 2017, refurbishment work commenced on Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben. The work is due to last three years. During this time, the tower will be scaffolded and the clock mechanism will be stopped for several months (no chiming or striking), with the exception of some special events including New Year's Eve and Remembrance Sunday. Find out more about the refurbishment.

    

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