Big Ben’s Bells are Taking a Little Break…

This blog is all about Bells. Big beautiful bonging bells! Both the Big Ben bell and the place it was created, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in East London.

Any keen listener of BBC Radio 4 will probably know of the impending bong deficit. This is because the Clock Tower at Westminster (the home of Big Ben and the other bells) is having a major three year refurbishment plan.

Of course, when you rely on the Bongs of Big Ben to start your live Radio show or TV programme, what do you do instead?

There was the story of the young girl who had very kindly offered to step in and do the bongs, and whilst we wait for the Bells to stop chiming (they are unsure when exactly within the three year restoration programme the bells will stop exactly, but they estimate the bongs will be out of action for a few months), here are some suggestions. This is a three minute audio clip on the subject from BBC Radio 4.

Photo from the BBC Archive.

Here are some facts about Big Ben, taken from www.bigbenfacts.co.uk

Who named Big Ben?

Londoners did. SUPPOSEDLY, the bell was going to be named Victoria after Queen Victoria, but Londoners started calling the bell “Big Ben” and the name stuck. (Giving nicknames is still a London custom – just think about “the Gherkin”!)

Where and when was Big Ben made?

Big Ben was cast at Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in East London, on 10th April 1858. It took him two weeks to cool, and once he was ready, they transported him to Westminster on a horse drawn carriage. Londoners lined the route and cheered as the bell went past.

How much does Big Ben weigh?

He weighs about 13 and a half tons, about the same as a small elephant.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is a great company with centuries of tradition, sadly struggling to survive in a modern world.

As a result of this, the company is closing May 2017. The site is being sold for flats (sigh) but they are still hopeful that the business might survive. So if you know anyone that might want a bell making business, tell them to get in touch with the current owners. I’ve been to visit Kathryn and Alan Hughes at the Bell Foundry and they are great people. I hope they find suitable buyers and keep one of the oldest businesses (it’s been going for 446 years) in the UK going…