Big Ben: The Great Clock and the Bells at the Palace of Westminster

ISBN : 9780199585694

Chris McKay
296 Pages
191 x 253 mm
Pub date
May 2010
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This book covers the history of 'Big Ben', the great clock and bells at Westminster, from the origins of Westminster as the seat of government right up to the celebrations of the Great Clock's 150th anniversary in 2009. The book begins by taking the reader through a typical visit to the Clock Tower, and then begins the history of the palace of Westminster, covering the fire of 1834, the building of the New Houses of Parliament and development of the clock and the bells, going into detail on their design and installation. The book covers the famous cracking of the current bell Big Ben in 1859, with sketches of all the characters involved, the two world wars, and the disaster of 1976. The book ends with a detailed technical description of the clock mechanism. The book is richly illustrated, and will appeal not only to clockmakers and horologists, but to bell enthusiasts, and those with an interest in our rich Victorian heritage.


1. Big Ben: a Brief History
2. A Visit to the Clock Tower
3. The Palace of Westminster to 1834
4. The Great Fire of 1834
5. A New Palace: 1835 Onwards
6. Plans and Specifications for the Great Clock: 1844 - 1852
7. The Great Clock is Built: 1852-1854
8. The Bells: 1856-1858
9. The Dials
10. The Development of the Gravity Escapement
11. The Great Clock is Installed and Set Going
12. Big Ben Cracks: 1859 - 1863
13. The Clock Ticks On: 1863 - 1900
14. Through Two World Wars: 1900 - 2000
15. The Disaster of 1976
16. The Restoration in 2007
17. The Great Clock- A Complete Description
18. Miscellaneous
19. The 150th Anniversary Celebration
20. Postscript

About the author: 

Turret clocks have been Chris McKay's interest since he was a boy; the first he saw was in a derelict tower from his school's playing field, and when he was 19 he became involved in the clock's restoration. Since then he has been involved in many restoration events including projects in Canada, Australia, Italy and Africa. For 27 years Chris was on the Committee for the Turret Clock Group of the Antiquarian Horological Society and was Chairman for half of that time. He has also served on the Board of the British Horological Institute and has been Vice-Chairman of the Institute. Currently he serves on the Clocks Committee of the Church Buildings Council, a Church of England body that advises on historical issues and awards grant aid.

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