13 April 2011

Along Peter Pan's Route: Inside Big Ben

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Not to be a TOTAL tourist, but I have to tell you about one of the most exciting things I've done so far 
(okay, there have been many)

I put on my Tinker Bell wings and paid Big Ben a little visit

They only give small private tours, which are free but require a bit of planning ahead 
(even Tinker Bell needed a background check)

It was so exciting to be inside one of the most recognized structures in the world!

We climbed a dizzying 334 steps

And literally gasped when we saw the backside of the clock face made of white glass

We could see the shadows of the hands and numbers

Absolutely magnificent

Notice the light bulbs on the opposite wall?
They light the face at night

One piece of glass opens for maintenance and for shooing birds away (which has stopped the clock in the past)

Peter Pan flies through that little window sometimes too :)

The clock was built in Victorian times

This famous clock is still wound three times a week by hand

They use a sophisticated method of changing the speed of the pendulum swing...
weighing it down with coins!

Afraid of heights: Need Not Apply

We wore 'ear defenders' (ear plugs) 
for the chime and bongs at noon

We held on to the wall for support due to the vibration
It was spectacular

Although there are 5 bells, Big Ben is the name of the biggest bell
It has a crack and hole in it

The tune of the famous Westminster chime came from Handel's Messiah

During the First World War, the clock tower's lights and chime were turned off 
to hide in the darkness from low flying enemy blimps

And although its lights also went out during WWII, the chime remained a sound of hope for the city

Nearby 'London Eye' in Spring

If you reside in the UK (and at least 12 yrs old), 
you absolutely must contact your local council and go on this behind-the-scenes tour

Watch out for that 'cheeky' Peter Pan and Capt'n Hook on the way there :)

Exterior photos by me
Interior photos & clock face cleaners from parliament.uk


topchelseagirl said...

Can't believe they made you abseil down the front and clean it lol!!! Sounds wonderful, must do it some time. x

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

How really exciting and terribly brave! We do not think that we could have done it, particularly at a time when the clock strikes and, as you say, the walls vibrate. No, not for us!!
After years of being in the UK, and living in London, we had no idea that such tours of Big Ben exist. Clearly only for those in the know!
We have much enjoyed reading your posts - particularly on Brussels which we travel through often - and are signing up as Followers.

Make mine Mid-Century said...

WOW! One of my favourite ever posts to read on a blog!!

What an experience! Thank you so much for taking us along. Really!

Jane said...

You best post ever, Laura. Bravo. It was such a thrill. I felt like I was standing next to you. Plaudits, my friend! J x

Hines-Sight said...

You're a great visual storyteller. Love your photos. Love the photo with the red bus in it. Great!

Melissa K @ Lulliloo said...

Oh wow! That's amazing - I would absolutly adore to go on that tour! Your photos are wonderful too, you did a great job of capturing everything :) You lucky thing.
Melissa xx

Pet said...

Your blog is really nice and crisp. I used to live in London but I never went up the Big Ben stairs! We are taking our children for the first time to the UK this autumn, but they are only 10 and 8, and are not residents there any more. But having seen your blog I am sure we will find more tips in your Posts :)so it will be a pleasure to join your blog.
You might also like mine, I intent to post some of my own findings in the UK, and other places too.

Tai Tai said...

Can't believe I never did this myself after 6 years in London!! So nice to see such a different perspective. It is an incredible piece of architecture and such an icon. Great snaps too! xx

Robyn said...

How great! Lovely lovely post!

Fiona said...

How fascinating. Thanks for a wonderful insight. How about a little royal watching for us in the lead up to the big day!

Kris said...

How cool! Thanks for the fantastic photo tour. I've always wondered what it would be like going up there.

Pink Princess said...

Great photos! i'll have to train before I even brave those steps!

Daydream Living said...

Hi Laura,
I didn't know you could get into the big ben, thanks for the tip! And those stairs! yikes!
Beautiful photo of it spiraling all the way down!

Noodles and Waffles said...

So neat. I wish I lived there so it would be easier to plan a tour. Love the pictures.

Erin S. said...

How cool! I didn't know you could go inside. It is such an icon, though--what a fabulous way to spend a day. I love that part of London!

Sandy said...

What an excellent post! Loved your photos and learned some info along the way. :D It would be such a thrill to go inside and see the workings.

Katherina said...

So many times I've been to London... and I never thought that you could actually visit the INSIDE of the Big Ben! Thanks for the idea - it's definitely on my list for the next time I'm in the city!

Kate and Russ said...

Ear defenders! I could NOT remember that term for the life of me!

Meri said...

What unique photos! It's been over 10 years (wow!) Since I was in London. I really think its time I go back!

ann said...

How absolutely amazing.

Slidecutter said...

Beautiful photos that made my Vertigo get crazy...wow! Love the term, Ear Defenders; will have to use that when I teach my next course in gun safety. "Get your Defenders on!"...sounds much better than "Stick your plugs in"

Thanks for sharing!

michele at hellolovelyinc said...

cooooooool, laura! feel like i got a tour too. love that image of the winding stairs. can't wait to visit someday.


Emily said...

Oh, Laura, or should I call you Wendy, you are the perfect tour guide! Thank you for taking us on such a lovely tour. I was especially tickled to enjoy the tour as I would never be able to make the climb in real life. My knees would lock somewhere along the 5th floor turn. Lighthouses are the same way for me over here in the states - the darndest thing, much to my chagrin. This is one of my favorite posts!

A Tale of Two Cities said...

I have some friends who just took this tour, but since they were not allowed to take any photos, it was hard to visualize all the things they were describing so enthusiastically, so I'm glad I got to see it through your eyes too. Hope I get to take this tour someday!

La Vie Quotidienne said...

What a wonderful experience...I had no idea that you could go up in the tower. So memoriable. What an amazing event.

AKmamaOf6 said...

Thank you for your post. My boys enjoyed looking at the photos and were very impressed. My husband wants to take our son there some day because his namesake was an English saint. My husband has been but not the rest of us.

It's wonderful to see how you have seized living abroad and helping others learn.

Anna in Alaska

priya said...

I never knew you get a guided tour of the Big Ben. I have heard from friends who just clicked photos in front of the Big Ben, but that's it!! Thanks for the info :)By the way, you had to climb 334 steps? ;)

Sarah of 'Catching the Magic' said...

Wow! What an amazing way to see Big Ben! I never even thought of the possibility of being able to see it from 'inside'. How exciting! Love your photographs - thank you! I shall have to tell my folks to look into doing this - they'd love it (so would I - but NZ is a lonnngggg way away!).

Meera @ firstsense said...

Loved this post, what a fascinating tour! So lovely to get an insight from you, you tell it so well!

Meera xx

beetree said...

I love the field trip and the beautiful pictures to go with it! I can almost hear the chiming! (sure wish I had some "ear defenders"!!! :D That is the best!

Jessica {lovely jubbly london} said...

I had no idea you could do that and neither did my English husband! We will definitely have to look into it. I take it those are your pictures and you were allowed to bring a camera?

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Jessica - no, you are not allowed to take photographs inside. The interior photos are from their website (link at bottom of post if interested). I was super sad about it.

Eurotrip Tips said...

Wow! The clocks looks just as impressive on the inside as it does on the outside.

Rochelle@AFamilyofLooneys said...

Wonderful shots. I have always wanted to go to London. Thank you for sharing your photos with me.

Iota said...

I lived in London for 11 years and had no idea you could visit Big Ben.

Great photos.

Grace @ Sense and Simplicity said...

That would be a fantastic tour. I'm going to tuck that away for the next time I go to the UK. Thanks for showing us around.

Amanda said...

I've always wondered what it'd be like to go up in Big Ben, if you could, and what the name Big Ben was from (maybe I've heard it and forgotten). THANKS! How breathtaking it all is.

Felicity said...

I feel a bit like Wendy holding onto the coat tails of Peter Pan, accompanying you on this tour Laura.

Thank you so much for this behind-the-scenes look at what is not only a British but international icon.

I only wish that I'd seen this post last month so I could have shared it with my parents who were touring the UK & Europe, I know my Dad would have loved this tour.

Happy day Lovely,

Sandra said...

Oh! I so enjoyed looking behind Big Ben thanks to you visit there. I must remember to do this next time I go to London!

Chel @ Sweetbriar Dreams said...

Thanks for letting us know about this tour. My boss is about to enter the House of Lords and I have now asked him if I could call in a favour to sort out a visit in the future. xx