THE PALACE OF WESTMINSTER

Wikipedia
5 clock bells
Hour bell: 270-3-15 in E
Frame: 1856 Sir C Barry (rivotted wrought and cast iron)
Hung dead and sounded by clock
Hour bell formerly also clocked from clock chamber
Retuning: Never subsequently retuned
Actually the clock tower of the House of Commons
Grid Ref:
& "Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster" - various newspapers articles & illustrations

DETAILS OF THE BELLS

Bell

Weight

Thickness

Diameter

Note

Cast

Founder

Quarter 1

21-0-23 4" 44⅜" G sharp

1857

John Warner & Sons

Quarter 2

25-1-2 4⅛" 481/16" F sharp 1857 John Warner & Sons

Quarter 3

33-2-13 47/16" 5315/16" E 1858 John Warner & Sons

Quarter 4

77-2-13 61/16" 72" B 1857 John Warner & Sons

Hour Bell
"Big Ben"

270-3-15 8" 108" E 1858 George Mears & Co.
Q1.  
JOHN WARNER & SONS, CRESCENT FOUNDRY, LONDON. 1857
warner_royal_arms.jpg (5708 bytes)

PATENT
Q2.  
JOHN WARNER & SONS, CRESCENT FOUNDRY, LONDON. 1857
warner_royal_arms.jpg (5708 bytes)

PATENT
Q3.  
JOHN WARNER & SONS, CRESCENT FOUNDRY, LONDON. 1857
warner_royal_arms.jpg (5708 bytes)

PATENT
Q4.  
JOHN WARNER & SONS, CRESCENT FOUNDRY, LONDON. 1857
warner_royal_arms.jpg (5708 bytes)

PATENT
Hour [gothic decoration]
  [gothic decoration]
  [gothic decoration]
  [gothic decoration]
[squared up Royal Arms] [Westminster Portcullis]
+ This bell weighing 13 tons 10 cwt 3 qrs 15 lbs was cast by George Mears of Whitechapel for the Clock of the Houses of Parliament under the direction of Edmund Beckett Denison QC in the twenty first year of the reign of Queen Victoria and in the year of our Lord MDCCCLVIII

The inscription on Big Ben is in one line between two moulding wires on the lower waist in black letter. The figures on Big Ben were brazed in to the inscription after the bell was cast.

REJECTED BELLS

Each of the following was cast by John Warner & Sons:

Bell

Weight

Diameter

Cast

Fate Invoiced out

Quarter 1

21-0-16 46" 1857 Came out wrong note. 10th Feb 1857

Quarter 1

20-2-6

45"

1857

Rejected as unsound. 6th May 1857

Quarter 3

35-1-6 54" 1857 Rejected as unsound. 23rd July 1857

Big Ben I

318-1-22 113" 1856 Cracked while under testing.
The inscription on the first Big Ben was as follows:
JOHN WARNER & SONS, CRESCENT FOUNDRY, CRIPPLEGATE.

PATENT
warner_royal_arms.jpg (5708 bytes)
LONDON

CAST IN THE 20TH YEAR OF THE REIGN OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA AND IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1856 FROM THE DESIGN OF EDMUND BECKETT DENISON, Q.C., SIR BENJAMIN HALL, BARONET, M.P., CHIEF COMMISSIONER OF WORKS.
 

The inscription between the lower moulding wires was on one line. It was from the last-named gentleman that the Bell and its successor received their name. Sir Benjamin Hall had left office by the time the second bell was cast. It is also stated to have been named after a famous boxer of the time. The official names debated were Great Stephen and Royal Victoria. This bell was 93/8" thick.

TRIAL BELLS

A number of "trial" bells were cast by John Warner & Sons for experimenting with E. B. Denison's profile and metal composition, as follows:

Weight

Diameter

Cast

Invoiced out Fate
?

6"

1856

Sold to E.B.Denison for his lectures
3-3-20

26"

1856

7th Nov. 1856 Believed to have gone to St Thomas, near Portman Square. This was a half size model of the proposed 3rd quarter bell.
7-0-12 33" 1856 10th Dec. 1856 Destination unknown
12-0-16 40⅞" 1856 Sold to Rohde Hawkins, architect, for St James Church, Birstwith, Yorks, the tenor of a ring of five (recast and augmented to 8 in 1933 by John Taylor & Co. However the inscription was reproduced in facsimile on the recast bell: 
 

CAST BY JOHN WARNER & SONS LONDON 1856
warner_royal_arms.jpg (5708 bytes)
PATENT

HISTORY

1844 Competition for The New Palace of Westminster won by Sir Charles Barry. Contract for the clock (eventually) given to Frederick Dent. Barry had specified 8 bells with a 14-ton hour bell; he then confessed that he knew nothing about bells (or clocks) and the Astronomer-Royal, G.B. Airey, was called in as Referee. In due course, E.B. Denison, M.P., later Q.C., later Sir Edmund Beckett, Bt., and later the First Lord Grimthorpe, was called in as co-referee. All were to regret the choice, but the nation owes the clock, the bells and the selection of the Cambridge Quarters to him.
1854 Clock completed in Dent’s works (where it remained for five years).
1855 Bells put out to tender. Charles & George Mears refused because of the harsh words said about their Royal Exchange bells of 1844/5; John Taylor & Son wanted too much of both money and time. John Warner & Sons were successful. The Great Bell and the largest Quarter Bell were to be cast in Norton, Co. Durham as Cripplegate had restricted furnace capacity.
1856

6th Aug.

The Great Bell was cast at Norton. It later came (by sea, on a ship which nearly sank) to London, and was “brought to Westminster on a great trolley drawn by sixteen gaily bedecked horses before the gaze of such a crowd as normally turns out for a public execution”. It was indeed duly hung on a scaffold and subjected to daily testing with a hammer weighing over 10 cwt, which drove MP’s mad and the locals to drink.
1857 1st Feb. 4th Quarter Bell invoiced
3rd Sept. 1st and 2nd Quarter Bells invoiced.
Sept. The testing caused Big Ben to crack. Warner’s estimate for recasting was refused as too expensive, though they still recast their 3rd Quarter bell which was subjected to tests and found unsound.
18th Dec. The mould was started at Whitechapel for a new Great Bell.
1858 18th-25th Feb. The old Great Bell was broken up.
31st Mar. By this time the mould for the new Great Bell was completed.
9th Apr. The pre-heating of the mould of the Great Bell commenced.
Sat. 10th Apr. Big Ben II was cast at 7:33pm.
29th May The Great Bell was invoiced out. "The Lords Commissioners for Building the New Palace of Westminster To a Bell C270 3 15 as per estimate 2401 By Old Bell C318 1 22 1829 ... 572". Big Ben was subsequently taken to Westminster in another great procession.
1859 31st May The clock was started.
1859 11th Jul. The bells began to chime the quarters and strike the hours.
29th Aug. Big Ben II cracked for half its depth under the 8 cwt clapper (which was twice the weight Mears had requested). The 4th quarter bell was consequently used to strike the hours.
1862 Big Ben was 1/8 turned, the hammer was reduced to 4 cwt (as at present) and Big Ben and the Cambridge Quarters rang out as we know them today.