Big Ben

Richard Offen richard.offen at
Fri Jan 18 01:28:37 GMT 2008

The 10th April this year marks the 150th anniversary of the casting 
of the current Big Ben for the great clock in the Palace of 

I hope that plans are afoot to suitably mark the anniversary of 
probably one of the best known, and certainly the most broadcast, 
bells in the world.

The anniversary has reminded me of a question that has been at the 
back of my mind for many years concerning the predecessor of the 
current bell.

I have an engraving, taken from the Illustrated London News, showing 
the first Big Ben being carted, in procession, across Westminster 
Bridge towards the Palace of Westminster.   The bell depicted was 
cast by John Warner & Sons on 6th August, 1856 at their foundry in 
Stockton-on-Tees and brought to London by sea.   On arrival it was 
taken to Warner's Cripplegate Foundry for initial testing and then 
set up in Palace Yard, Westminster, where the over-heavy hammer 
specified by Denison caused its eventual destruction.

Given that both the Cripplegate Foundry and the Palace of Westminster 
are on the North side of the River Thames, and assuming that the 
engraving is not just artistic licence, why was it decided that such 
a heavy load would take a much more torturous route over two river 

In his recent book on the history of the great clock in the Palace of 
Westminster, Peter McDonald also states that the first Big Ben was 
carried in procession across Westminster Bridge, but I would be 
interested to know what contemporary reports, apart from the 
engraving, confirm this route?



More information about the Bell-historians mailing list