Big Ben

London’s famous soundmark

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(23 Votes, average 3.74)

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. 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.


Currently not sounding due to rennovation. Normally, 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. 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 months in advance.


Author: Trevor Cox

I am a Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford where I carry out research and teaching focussing on architectural acoustics, signal processing and audio perception. I am also an author and radio broadcaster having presented many documentaries on BBC radio and written books for academics and the general public.

3 thoughts on “Big Ben”

  1. I love that sound. When I was a kid, my father and I listened it in Mexico, through the BBC’s broadcasts in the short wave bands of the radio. Many years later, when visiting the UK, two times I have the chance to listen it when going to street level leaving the Parliament Station of the “tube”. It was exciting!.

  2. Truly the sound of London-wonderful. Nice point that the original bell quickly developed a crack the repair of which was made by consultation with the great acoustician Charles Wheatstone, well known for his experiments with sound and electricity.

Comments are closed.