Testing the original 'Big Ben' with a hammer, London, 1856.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving taken from the 'Illustrated London News'. The nickname 'Big Ben', posibly after Sir Benjamin Hall, an MP and the Commisioner of Public Works, refers to the bell of St Stephen's Tower of the Houses of Parliament. The original bell, was designed by Baron Grimthorpe and cast in 1856, weighing 15 tons. However, during testing it developed serious cracks and had to be scrapped. Its replacement, which weighed 13 tons and was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, was installed in 1858. The sound of Big Ben striking the hour was first heard in July 1859. There are also four smaller quarter bells in the clock tower.