Thursday, 28 June 2012

Big Ben and its Catholic (and Welsh) history

News that the epic London landmark, Big Ben, is to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of HM Queen Elizabeth II, may be considered strange.

Pugin strikes again!

I don't think that people will ever stop calling it Big Ben (although the renaming, apparently, refers to the Tower itself).

I think that if I was the monarch (notice that I did not say 'Queen') I would prefer to have had some new sort of a monument built to me, maybe a statue on a plinth in Trafalgar Square?

But few appreciate the role that a Catholic architect had in the design of the clock as well as the tower.

Augustus Pugin was the man who designed the clock tower and the dial to the world's largest timepiece, sub contracted by Master architect, Charles Barry.

In the later stages, the man responsible for overseeing the construction as First Commissioner of Works was Welshman, Benjamin Hall, later, to become Baron Llanover of Monmouthshire. He was, by all accounts, an ultra tall man and many attribute the clock's nickname as coming from 'Big Ben Hall'.

However nice this might seem as a story it is far more likely that it was dubbed 'Big Ben' after a popular boxer at the time (at least, according to Wiki).

But Pugin's footprint is writ large over the structure and it is here that I refer you on to Laurence England's blog which has a good piece also about Pugin.


  1. And framing each clockface are the words "Domine salvam fac reginam nostram Victoriam" - which, as an Extraordinary Form enthusiast, I am sure you will recognise! (Although I don't mean the sovereign named there!)

  2. Big Ben is the Bell - the tower is St Stephen's tower - and if Her Majesty becomes a Catholic on her deathbed like her Great Grandfather and renounces her dereliction of her coronation oath in the treason felony of 1858 - via the eugenics, abortion and euthanasia of her subjects - then I swear I'll build her a dry-stone tower the very same height as St Stephen's a dedicate it to her....until then - the Protomartyr's it shall remain!

  3. I don't quite get why the tower of Big Ben should be renamed after the present Queen. I mean, can't the government just build her a new monument? But anyway, I don't have any real problem with it, if that's what's been decided. I have a feeling everyone will just keep calling it "Big Ben" anyway!

    Those are very interesting facts about the Catholic and Welsh connections. Thanks for putting them up, Richard!