Big Ben Pendulum Letter

Big Ben Pendulum Letter
  • Title: E B Denison, Queen Anne Street, London to Lord Seymour

  • Date : 22 Jan 1852

  • Catalogue number : Parliamentary Archives, WLS/2/200

  • Description :

    Letter from E B Denison, Queen Anne Street, London to Lord Seymour, 22 Jan 1852. Includes suggestions about the positioning and construction of the clock, pendulum and weights in the Tower of the Houses of Parliament.

    From Parliamentary Archives collection reference WLS - the papers of James Willis, a senior clerk in the Office of Works, 1858-1900.


  • Transcript:

    Houses of Parlt

    Gt Clock                     42 Queen Anne Street

    Mr Denison to Ld Seymour                            22 Jan 1852

                22nd January 1852


    My Lord,

    I have written to the Astronomer Royal as you desired, sending him a copy of that sketch of the general arrangement of the clock which I showed you, &  asking his opinion about the advantage of putting the clock over the air shaft if possible.

    He says in reply:

    The convenience of having the command of the airshaft was so obvious that on receiving the plans I at once made inquiry about the possibility of having license to use it: the answer, I think was rather obscure! I am not quite certain about the necessity; & if the interests concerned here appear to be in conflict it will be obviously desirable that ours should not be pressed rigorously except where we are absolutely unable to give up our point.

    With this view I should ask you to consider the following suggestions: -

                He then proposes several expedients for continuing to use the space in the middle, which are certainly (as well as others which I should rather adopt) feasible, if we were driven to use it; but all such expedients will tend to render the clock less perfect, & will immediately suggest to any spectator who understands such things, the question – ‘why was not this position of this clock settled in the first instance between the architect and those who managed the clock? For if it had been, not such arrangement as this would ever have been adopted.’

                I intend to call at the Office of Works, as you suggested, to look at the old plans & I will bring Mr Airy’s Letter with me, in case you would like to see the kind of expedients which he suggests for adapting the clock to the middle of the tower.


                            … I remain My lord

                                        Yours very truly

                                                    E B Denison


    The Lord Seymour


Related Information

Find out more about the Parliamentary Archives