Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament,also New Palace of 
Westminster, seat of the British legislature a great 
mass of  eastbuildings on the bank of the Thames 
in London. It was built (1840-60) after plans by
Sir Charles Barry, on the site of the medieval royal 
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 apartments, 
100 staircases, and 11 courts. The exterior, in rich 
late Gothic style, is impressive with its three 
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 contains a 
clock with four dials, each 7 m (23 ft) in diameter, 
and a great bell, Big Ben, weighing 13.5 tons. 
Among the houses are the sumptuous House of 
House of Commons; Saint Stephen's Hall on the 
site  of Saint Stephen's Chapel; the residence of 
the Speaker; the libraries, committee rooms, and 
lobbies connected with the House of Commons
and the House of Peers; and offices. Westminster 
Hall (begun 1097) is all that remains of the original 

In World War II the buildings were 
seriously damaged during air raids. 
In 1974 a bomb planted by Irish 
nationalists slightly damaged 
Westminster Hall.



Big Ben

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 is Big 
Ben, however, it is not the tower but the bell in
the clock that is called Big Ben. The clock tower 
itself is called the Great Clock of Westminster.


In 1844 Parliament decided that the 
new buildings of the Houses of 
Parliament should include a clock 
tower. The specifications for the clock 
were extremely high for that time. 
The first strike of the bell should be 
correct to one second to the hour and 
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 the 
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 years, 
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 and 
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 it?'.


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