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How Big Ben Got His Name

17th May 2021

The Houses and Parliament and the clock tower are all too familiar but .....

'Big Ben!' the tourists cry referring to the tower
though Big Ben's actually the bell inside,
which strikes the hour with self-important tone.
It got the name by popular consent 
in eighteen fifty-eight when it was hauled
by sixteen horses through the crowd-lined streets
from Whitechapel Bell Foundry on the eastern 
side of London. Newspapers compared 
the bell to current boxing heavyweight 
world champion, the eighteen stone Ben Caunt,
or Big Ben to his customers as he 
was landlord of the Coach and Horses in
St Martin's Lane in London and that summer
fought his last bare-knuckle title fight.
No one argued when Big Ben called 'time!'

There was another claimant - Big Ben Hall, 
who was Chief Commissioner of Works,
responsible for infrastructure in 
the government. He measured six foot two
and he was known as Big Ben to his colleagues 
in the House of Commons. Either way,
the great thirteen ton bell became Big Ben 
to Londoners and that's how it remained. 

(The Whitechapel Bell Foundry has been in
the news this week. It closed four years ago
but parliament has just permitted it
to be turned into a boutique hotel
as nobody is ever going to make
bells of such proportions here again.
It also cast the Liberty Bell of course...)