Most people think it’s the clock, but it’s actually the bell in the clock tower that’s named Big Ben in London. After a fire destroyed the British Parliament building in 1834, plans for a new building included a large clock with a bell on top of a tower. But not just any clock. This one would have pinpoint accuracy with checks twice a day with the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

The bell weighs 13 tons and it took a team of 16 horses to pull it to the clock tower. Once it was installed it rang for the first time on this date, May 31st in 1859. But it went silent just two months later because the bell’s hammer was too heavy and it cracked the bell. It wasn’t until 3 years later that a lighter hammer could be installed and the bell of Big Ben began ringing again. They had to rotate the bell so that the hammer struck a different area of the inside of the bell. The crack was never repaired.

Even after a bomb destroyed the chamber of the House of Commons during World War Two, the tower and the clock survived and never stopped keeping accurate time.

Each clock face is 23 feet across. The hour hands are 9 feet long. The minute hands are 14 feet long.

At night, all four of the clock’s faces are lighted. When parliament is in session, a light shines on the roof of the tower above the clock.