Big Ben lights up end of its 150th year

31 December 2009

To bring to an end the celebrations marking Big Ben’s 150th anniversary a Happy Birthday projection will be illuminated on the iconic Clock Tower from 9.00 pm on 31 January. This will change to "Welcome 2010" at midnight

The projection marks the years 1859 – 2009 during which Big Ben, the Clock Tower and the Great Clock have kept time for the nation. It will be visible to those congregating for the New Year’s celebrations on the banks of the Thames.

This will close the year of celebrations for the anniversary of Big Ben, the Clock Tower and the Great Clock and also marks the day on 31st December 1923 when BBC radio first broadcast Big Ben’s chimes across the United Kingdom.

It was on 31st May 1859 that the Great Clock first started keeping time but it was almost two months later on July 11th 1859 that Big Ben itself first struck.

Over the last century and a half Big Ben has witnessed the coronations of four monarchs, the rise of the suffragettes, two World Wars and the celebrations when they ended, President Mandela’s address (1996) and a New Year’s celebration every year.

The nickname Big Ben is commonly used to describe the tower, the clock and the bell, but the name was first given to the Great Bell.

Big Ben owes its existence to the Great Fire of 1834 that destroyed most of the old House of Parliament and to Charles Barry who won the commission to design the new Palace of Westminster complete with the addition of a clock tower and a large striking clock.

Mike McCann, Keeper of the Great Clock, comments:

"After 150 years, Big Ben still holds a special place in the hearts of Londoners and the world as a magnificent example of engineering and building genius."

Image: Parliamentary copyright

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