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Westminster Palace

The Clock Tower and Great Clock

Source: The Illustrated London News, August 2, 1856

Big Ben

Amidst the pride of association and the respect for historic site which has had so much to do with the design of the New Palace of Parliament, at Westminster, not the least remarkable instance is the rearing of the great Clock Tower, almost upon the very spot whereon was placed the first striking clock set up in England. The reader will, doubtless, recollect (perchance from Hollar's print) the history of this ancient clock, which was placed in the clock-house, opposite Westminster-hall, the cost being defrayed by a fine imposed on the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, in 16th of Edward I., or 1288. On the front of one of the houses in Old Palace-yard, directly opposite Westminster-hall, there may now be seen a large dial, bearing the motto "Discite justitiam monite," which motto was inscribed upon the old clock-tower, and refers to the fine imposed upon the Chief Justice. This house is stated to occupy the site of the clock tower, and not far from it is the lofty tower which Sir Charles Barry has raised for the reception of the great clock of the New Palace. There are five stories in this tower, beneath that in which the clock is now being placed. The floor on which the clock is intended to rest is 165 feet 7 inches above high-water mark; the centre of the dial-plate of the clock will therefore be 182 feet 7 inches. As we shall hereafter illustrate the great clock in all its details, we reserve the description for the present. The dial-plates of which there is one for each of the four sides of the tower, are 22 feet in diameter; and the four sets of hands weigh 12cwt., and are 20 feet in length.