BIG BEN IN POPULAR
the years, Big Ben has become a popular cultural icon in both the United
Kingdom and abroad.
The ringing of its colossal hour bell
has become a familiar sound to the British people, and descriptions have
pervaded the literature of such prominent authors as Virginia Woolf.
Every day since 1924, when a live
microphone was installed inside the tower, Big Ben's hourly chimes have been
broadcast over the radio by the British Broadcasting Corporation
Only a few interruptions have occurred when the clock has gone out of
service, most notably for repairs in 1934 and 1956.
The only time Big Ben has ever broken down was in 1976, after more than
100 years of service; the chiming mechanism broke on August 5, and the clock remained out of service until May
Routine maintenance now occurs every 15 or 20 years; the last took place
in October 2005, when the clock was shut down for 24 hours to allow for repair work and
The chiming of Big Ben at midnight on New Year's Eve is the British
equivalent to the U.S. dropping of the ball in New York City's Times Square, and the BBC broadcasts that festivity
every year on television.
Big Ben has repeatedly appeared in television programs, as well as in
numerous films including My Learned Friend (1943), The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978), and Shanghai Knights (2003). All
three films contain well-known scenes of characters hanging from one of the clock hands.
Younger audiences have been exposed to Big Ben through its appearance in
the Walt Disney film Peter Pan (1953), when the main characters circle the tower during their flight to
Also of note are two British film versions of King Kong that appeared in
1961 and 1976, in which Big Ben takes the place of New York City's Empire State Building. Throughout the world,
images of Big Ben bring Britain immediately to mind, much as the Eiffel Tower does for France.