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Big Ben, London
Big Ben, London [1]

The chimes of Big Ben ringing out from the Houses of Parliament’s clock tower is arguably the the most famous sound of London. Indeed, a study by artist Peter Cusack showed it to be one of Londoner’s favourite sounds [5]. However, most British people probably recognize this from the ‘bongs’ on the TV and radio news, rather than something they heard on a London street. The Big Ben bell celebrated it’s 150th anniversary in 2009. It’s a mammoth 13.5 tons. It cracked a few months after installation and needed repairing when too heavy a hammer was used [2].

Location and logistics

Palace of Westminster, London, SW1A oAA. Although Big Ben is audible inside the Houses of Parliament it isn’t very loud.

On the streets close to the tower the chimes are clearly audible. But as you go further away it gets harder to hear as traffic noise masks the sound. It’s easier to hear higher up so surrounding buildings are not getting in the way. On a quiet night when there is a temperature inversion, it can be heard several miles away. It’s possible to book a tour of the the tower, but you need to contact your member of parliament or get sponsored by a peer [3] months in advance.

You can also visit the foundary when Big Ben was cast – see post on Church Bells, England

Sources and credits

  1. David Iliff Wikimedia Commons
  2. http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/principal/interviews/clocktowerguide2.cfm
  3. http://www.parliament.uk/about/how/principal/interviews/clocktowerguide.cfm
  4. http://www.parliament.uk/about/livingheritage/building/big_ben/anniversary_year/downloads.cfm
  5. http://www.favouritelondonsounds.org/search/list.php