Sign of the time

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Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Changing the name

For as long as any of us can remember, it’s been called Big Ben.

The clock, faithfully telling the time for more than a century, high above the UK’s houses of parliament, has become one of the most iconic images of London and England more general (up there with the Spice Girls, I’d say).

But it looks like it might be about to get a name change.

Although it’s best known by its more informal moniker, Big Ben is officially called the Clock Tower. And it’s that official name that politicians may soon vote to change.

Big Ben name change, Westminster, London
Big Ben name change, Westminster, London

In recognition of the Queen’s diamond jubilee, one member of parliament has proposed renaming the Clock Tower to Elizabeth Tower. The idea’s been quickly picked up by member on both sides of the house and seems to have unanimous support.

Would this be a first?

The name change would not be without precedent. Another of Westminster’s turrets is called Victoria Tower, in honour of the only other British monarch to reach a diamond jubilee.

Many think it would be fitting for the empire’s two longest-serving rulers to be immortalised at one of London’s most important landmarks.

Big Ben name change, Westminster, London

As Labour’s shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, apparently put it: “The Queen and the Clock Tower are known throughout the world. It would be brilliant if we could celebrate 60 years of service with a permanent monument to Her Majesty’s dedication and grace.”

Big Ben name change, Westminster, London

In all likelihood, most people will still call it Big Ben. When the chimes ring out across the Thames, the nearby citizens and tourists will probably not immediately bring Queen Elizabeth II to the forefront of their minds.

But as much as the clock and the tower is a symbol of the city, the new name will be a symbol of the monarch who has ruled over it for so long.


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17 thoughts on “Sign of the time”

  1. Yeah, it is a nice idea though I think that it would take time for people to really call it with its new name. Besides, all this time, it has been known as the Big Ben and it is much shorter to say rather than the new one. 🙂

  2. Sorry Turts, but Big Ben is the name of the bell, not the tower, so presumably just as you can have Big Ben in the clock tower, you can also have it in Elizabeth Tower too. Do agree that whatever they call it, people will still refer to the whole lot as Big Ben though.

    • Yes, a fair point – and thanks for making it! But I do think that although the bell is technically known as Big Ben, the tower kind of has that name unofficially now too. In that sense it’s a name change for the average person.

  3. I’m pretty sure that the towers has never been called Big Ben anyway! Big Ben is actually the nickname or name for the bell that’s inside the tower so really changing the name of the tower makes no difference but is a nice gesture to our current Queen.

    Most people would still refer to it as Big Ben though and a lot of people don’t actually realise this name just referred to te bell! To most people Big Ben represents the whole tower 🙂

  4. big ben is one of my dream destination in UK.. it would be a nice tribute to the queen but it would take long to recognize that to the tower/bell as it will still be overshadowed by the icon the world has known as big ben..

  5. Yes! It is a good idea and i agree in honor of the Queen. But it would take time to get the feel of it to call it with its new name.

  6. I pretty much like the idea of honoring the queen but anyhow, I think people would still refer to it as the Big Ben because it has always been known with that name. I would love to see it in person!

  7. One of the nicest place in the world that I love to go is Big Ben and I hope that I can go there very soon. The place are very beautiful and i love it.

  8. You know, I think this happens a lot – the changing of names of major buildings, stadiums and so on – and it’s always bothered me. That’s primarily because the name changes tend to reflect new donors/sponsorship from big corporations and I don’t like feeling as though public landmarks are now advertisements.

    I suppose in the case of Big Ben, it’s a little different because the name change is aimed at *honoring* the Queen, but I still disagree with it because it leads to confusion since people will be referring to the same tower by multiple names. Why can’t they just build a new structure to celebrate the jubilee???

  9. I’m not up for this idea and don’t like that politicians will make the decision. If it is to be changed it should be by referendum but …..

    I’m not an anti-royalist the Queen does her bit but name something else Big Ben is iconic.


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