Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament,also New Palace
Westminster, seat of the British legislature a great
mass of eastbuildings on the bank of
River in London. It was built (1840-60) after plans by
Sir Charles Barry, on the site of the
residence, the Palace
of Westminster, which was
largely destroyed by fire in 1834.
The buildings cover an area of more than 3
hectares (8 acres) and contain 1100
100 staircases, and 11 courts. The
exterior, in rich
late Gothic style, is impressive with its
massive towers: Victoria
Tower (102 m/336 ft),
Middle Tower (91 m/300 ft), and Saint Stephen's, or
the Clock Tower (98 m/320 ft). The latter
clock with four dials, each 7 m (23 ft) in
and a great bell, Big Ben, weighing 13.5
Among the houses are the sumptuous House
House of Commons; Saint Stephen's Hall on
site of Saint Stephen's Chapel; the
the Speaker; the libraries, committee
lobbies connected with the House of
and the House of Peers; and offices.
Hall (begun 1097) is all that remains of
In World War II the buildings were
seriously damaged during air raids.
In 1974 a bomb planted by Irish
nationalists slightly damaged
Big Ben is one of the most famous buildings in
London. When you tell people you have been in
London one of the first remarks you get is:
"Oh, did you see Big Ben?'.
A lot of people think that the clock tower
Ben, however, it is not the tower but the
the clock that is called Big Ben. The
itself is called the Great Clock of
In 1844 Parliament decided that
new buildings of the Houses of
Parliament should include a clock
tower. The specifications for the
were extremely high for that time.
The first strike of the bell should
correct to one second to the hour
it took until 1851 to develop a
mechanism that was that accurate.
The bell was made according to
certain requirements regarding
weight, shape and metal.
However, it cracked and was beyond
repair. Because of this, a new bell
had to be made.This time the
Whitechapel Bell Foundry undertook
the castings. A couple of months
after the clock went into service
bell cracked again. This apparently
had to do with the hammer and
according to experts, was to heavy.
Big Ben was out of order for 3
in which the hammer was replaced
with a lighter one and the bell was
turned a bit.
An interesting point of fact, is that
Parliament discussed an appropriate
name for the clock tower for quite a
while. Sir Benjamin Hall, a large
portely man who was also known as
Big Ben, gave a long speech about
the clock. At the end of his speech
somebody in Parliament said: 'Why
not call him Big Ben and be done with