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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

SL Big Ben Compares Favourably with Real One


OK class sit down and be quiet. Hastings, take that gum out of your mouth, and Bracken stop pulling the legs off that spider, and both stop talking! (if that's possible!) hehe.

Today's lesson is history. Big Ben real life, and Big Ben Second Life to be more precise.
Big Ben is one of London's more famous landmarks, and also celebrates its 150th birthday this year (2009).

Big Ben is actually the name given to the great bell in the belfry. (more about this later).We all know this structure as Big Ben, but it is actually called the clock tower! Big Ben had become a nickname for the tower almost as soon as it was built. No one knows the true reason why it got its nickname, but a couple of theories sound strongest. One of these relates to a Sir Benjamin Hall who was responsible for purchasing the bell, but the one I like best is that it’s named after a very well known heavyweight boxer of the period Benjamin Caunt. Caunt was born in March 1815 in Nottinghamshire. When fully grown he stood six feet two and a half inches tall and weighed 210 pounds. He became heavyweight champion of England in 1841. The fight lasted an amazing 34 rounds, (I'd have had ’im in two rounds). The great bell was thought to be called 'Victoria' in honour of Queen Victoria, but rumour has it that the queen would not have been amused, so it was quickly dropped, the name not the bell lol.

The original great bell cracked whilst it was being tested, so a second bell was cast on the 6th of August 1856 and proved to be successful. It weighs an amazing 6 tons, stands 2.2 metres tall and is 2.9 metres wide. It was transported to the tower on a trolley which was pulled by sixteen horses. It was pulled 200 feet up to the tower’s belfry, a feat that took 18 hours.

The great bell first chimed in July 1859, less than two months later, this second bell cracked under the weight of the hammer. It took 3 years to repair and reinstall the great bell. A small piece of the metal was chipped out around the crack, and the bell was given a small turn so the hammer would hit it in another place. Big Ben has chimed with an odd 'twang' ever since. The great bell is the one you hear strike up the hour 'BONG' lol. As well as the great bell the belfry also holds four smaller quarter bells.

The clock tower is part of a larger building which we know as the Houses of Parliament, but which is in fact, the Palace of Westminster. The tower stands 315.9 feet high, the lower 200 foot of the building consists of brickwork and sand coloured Anston limestone cladding. The remainder of its height is a framed spire of cast iron. The foundation of the tower had to be built on a raft of concrete nearly 10 feet thick and at 13 feet below ground level, because of ground changes over the years and the tunnelling for a new nearby underground rail line extension, the tower leans slightly by 8.66 inches to the Northwest. Top tip coming up----DON'T STAND THAT SIDE OF IT hehe. Work started on the tower around April 1840, and we have Charles Barry to thank for the original design. He was asked to replace the old palace of Westminster, which was destroyed by fire in October 1834. Charles Barry was born 23rd May1795.He had designed and built many buildings in his time but is mostly remembered for the Palace of Westminster including the clock tower. He was knighted in 1852. His wife Sarah laid the foundation stone in April 1840, they had four sons, and lived happily at the same house in Clapham Common where Charles was born and later died aged 64. Charles Barry turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the clock tower. The design of the tower was to be Pugin's last, It was said that he worked so hard and long on the designs, that it sent him bonkers! and he died shortly after aged only 40.

Pugin was born in 1812, and developed a taste for the 'goodlife' even though sometimes he couldn't afford it. He was married three times, and had seven children. He also spent a short period in jail, for non-payment of rent. The tower is designed in Pugin’s Gothic revival style. He also designed the clock faces, which are set in an iron frame 23 feet in diameter and supports 312 pieces of Opel glass (just like stained glass in a church window). At the bottom of each clock base is a Latin inscription, which reads--DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM, which translates as O Lord keep safe our Queen Victoria the first. Well that's nice, but why? Maybe pigeons can read, and Latin at that!

The clock tower is still the largest four faced chiming structure in the world, and is famous for its reliability, and was crafted by Edward John Dent. The clock is powered by a giant pendulum, which is enclosed in a windproof box. The pendulum is 3.9 metres long and weighs 300kgs. The mechanism for the clocks weighs a massive 5 tons. The hour hand is 9 feet long, and the minute hand is 14 feet long.

OK so much for the real world clock tower, now I wanted to check out the second life clock tower. I jumped into a Taxi and asked him to take me to the clock tower, and to my surprise he took me straight to Big Ben. I arrived thinking that I was going to be disappointed, thinking the Second Life tower would be just a plain structure without any details added. Well I've got to say, how wrong can I be? I was very impressed with the SL tower, it is amazingly similar to the RL tower. With its Gothic sand stone columns, four working clock faces, that actually tell you the right time. Moving up the SL tower you come to the belfry, and yes I was so pleased to see all the bells there, and in their correct positions. There surrounded by the four quarter bells is the massive Big Ben. The SL clock tower was created by Painter Meriman who built it in 2007. I stayed looking at the bells and the beautiful stained windows for as long as I dare. I'm not sure if they would start to chime, and with the top of the hour only a few minutes away, I needed a quick way down. Luckily for me I noticed a sign earlier, but didn't believe it was true till now. Bungee jump off Big Ben!!! Wow I just got to have a go on that I thought. Sadly for me no one was there to tie me in, but I wouldn't let that put me off, so I did it myself, big mistake, the rope was just a bit to long. BONG, BONG, BONG, no that's not Big Ben chiming, its my head hitting the ground! OUCH, OUCH, OUCH.




Pixi Piers

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sad it has no Boing and worse it is missing the palace of Westminster.

When is SL London going to figure out that most tourists to rl london, and sl london, don't want to shop - they want to see.

Janey Bracken said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thank you for your comments, I have heard from the 'powers that be' that they are planning to build the Palace of Westminster which will be quite something, not the easiest of builds I would have thought. But I am really looking forward to seeing this completed. I love shopping and I love to see all the sights of London, so to me, I think the team are getting the balance just right, with plans to build a lot more well known London landmarks, but keeping SL London viable with renting shop space too.

Hi Pixi, great report, you have made it all so interesting and I never realised Big Ben was having its 150th birthday this year. Sorry you caught me pulling the legs off the spider btw, hehe.

Best wishes to Anonymous and pixi
from Janey

Caspian Zeplin said...

I'm currently building the Palace. Come see the first half at Antiquity Westminster 2 in SL! (50, 210, 32)