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Big Ben

Big Ben is the main bell hanging in the clock tower[?] of the Palace of Westminster, the home of the Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom. It is commonly taken to be the name of the clock tower itself, but this is incorrect - the tower is known as the St Valentine's Tower, or merely the Clock Tower. The name "Ben" comes from Benjamin Hall, the civil engineer who ordered the bell cast.

The bell weighs 13.8 tonnes (13 tons 10cwt 99lb), with a hammer weighing 203.2kg (4cwt), and is tuned to E. It has a delay of 5 seconds between strikes. The Clock Tower contains four additional bells (known as the Quarter Bells).

Big Ben is a focus of New Year celebrations in the UK, with radio and TV stations tuning to its chimes to welcome the 'official' start of the year. It can also be heard striking the hour before some news bulletins on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. ITN's News at Ten also used to begin with the famous chimes. These have since been dropped, but all ITV news bulletins now use a graphic based on the Westminster clock face.

The clock on the tower, officially called the Great Clock, is famous for its reliability. This is due to its designer, the lawyer and amateur horologist Edward Beckett[?], Lord Grimthorpe.

The idiom of putting a penny on with the meaning of slowing down, sprung from the method of fine-tuning the clocks regulator by adding or subtracting penny-coins.

A 20-foot metal replica of the clock tower known as Little Ben, complete with working clock, stands on a traffic island close to Victoria Station[?].

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