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External Websites. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Jonathan D. At the base of each clock dial, in gilt letters, is the Latin inscription:.
The clock's movement is famous for its reliability. Construction was entrusted to clockmaker Edward John Dent ; after his death in his stepson Frederick Dent completed the work, in This escapement provides the best separation between pendulum and clock mechanism.
The pendulum is installed within an enclosed windproof box beneath the clockroom. It is 13 feet 4. The clockwork mechanism in a room below weighs five tons.
On top of the pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins ; these are to adjust the time of the clock. Adding a coin has the effect of minutely lifting the position of the pendulum's centre of mass , reducing the effective length of the pendulum rod and hence increasing the rate at which the pendulum swings.
Adding or removing a penny will change the clock's speed by 0. On 10 May , a German bombing raid damaged two of the clock's dials and sections of the tower's stepped roof and destroyed the House of Commons chamber.
Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed a new five-floor block. Two floors are occupied by the current chamber, which was used for the first time on 26 October The clock ran accurately and chimed throughout the Blitz.
Before The clock stopped for the first time in its history, "through a heavy fall of snow" on the hands of a clock face.
The old escape wheel was replaced. February The heavy build-up of snow on a clock face impeded the progress of the hour hand, causing the clock to stop for about eight hours.
Winter Heavy snow stopped the clock for several hours. Small electric heaters were placed just inside these two dials which faced the full fury of the winter's blast, and this measure has helped to reduce instances of freezing in recent years.
Thus, it chimed-in the new year nine minutes late. The air brake speed regulator of the chiming mechanism broke from torsional fatigue after more than years of use, causing the fully wound 4-ton weight to spin the winding drum out of the movement, causing much damage.
This was the longest break in operation since its construction. During this time BBC Radio 4 broadcast the pips instead.
Before , maintenance was carried out by the original firm of Dents; since , by parliamentary staff. March and January The problem of the rubber bushings on the quarter bell chimes freezing recurred, muffling the chimes.
It was the lengthiest maintenance shutdown in 22 years. During this period, BBC Radio 4 broadcast recordings of British bird song followed by the pips in place of the usual chimes.
Bearings in the clock's chime train and the "great bell" striker were replaced, for the first time since installation. The intention was that the clock should run accurately for a further years before major maintenance is again required; in fact the repairs sufficed for ten years.
August The clock was discovered to be running 7 seconds fast, and coins were removed from its pendulum to correct the error, which caused it to run slow for a time.
During this time, dials, hands, and lights will be removed for restoration, with at least one dial—with hands driven by an electric motor—left intact, functioning, and visible at any given time.
Plans also include installing a lift. The main bell, officially known as the Great Bell but better known as Big Ben , is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster.
Since the tower was not yet finished, the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard but, during testing, it cracked beyond repair and a replacement had to be made.
The bell was recast on 10 April at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a This new bell first chimed in July ; in September it too cracked under the hammer.
According to the foundry's manager, George Mears, the horologist Denison had used a hammer more than twice the maximum weight specified.
To make the repair, a square piece of metal was chipped out from the rim around the crack, and the bell given an eighth of a turn so the new hammer struck in a different place.
Along with the Great Bell, the belfry houses four quarter bells which play the Westminster Quarters on the quarter hours.
The quarter bells play a once-repeating, note sequence of rounds and four changes in the key of E major : 1—4 at quarter past, 5—12 at half past, 13—20 and 1—4 at quarter to, and 5—20 on the hour which sounds 25 seconds before the main bell tolls the hour.
Because the low bell B is struck twice in quick succession, there is not enough time to pull a hammer back, and it is supplied with two wrench hammers on opposite sides of the bell.
The tune is that of the Cambridge Chimes , first used for the chimes of Great St Mary 's church, Cambridge , and supposedly a variation , attributed to William Crotch , based on violin phrases from the air " I know that my Redeemer liveth " in Handel 's Messiah.
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