Should Big Ben become ‘Big Beth’?
by Bonnie Gardiner in Editor's picks and Politics
Wed May 2, 10:09 a.m. BST
44% oppose changing name of Clock Tower for Diamond Jubilee; 30% support the new name
Almost half of Britons would be opposed to the renaming of the London Clock Tower (usually referred to as 'Big Ben', after the bell) to 'Elizabeth Tower' to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year, as recently suggested by some MPs, our poll shows.
- 44% of the British public would oppose changing the name of the Clock Tower
- 30% would support changing the name of the Clock Tower
- 26% don’t know if they would welcome a name change or not
- Older people (60+; 46%) are slightly more likely than younger (18-24s; 37%) to oppose the idea
- And people in London are also more opposed to a change (53%) compared to those in the rest of England, Wales (41-46%) or especially Scotland (39%)
We asked British panellists whether they would oppose or support the renaming of the London Clock Tower to the Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Queen's Jubilee, although the survey did not specifically say that the Clock Tower is usually known as 'Big Ben'.
Renaming for the monarch
Senior Members of Parliament are backing a drive to change the name of the iconic Clock Tower (aka ‘Big Ben’) to ‘Elizabeth Tower’ in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. This would make her one of only two monarchs to have ever reached the 60-year reigning anniversary, along with Queen Victoria who celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. In 1860, the East Tower near Westminster Palace was named Victoria Tower in honour of the then-monarch.
The great clock which stands today in the Houses of Parliament has been operational since 1859 and is famous around the world for keeping impeccable time (using a system of pennies, among other technology), even during the Blitz.
Great honour or daft proposal?
Hill refers to the fact that although most people think of the building as the Big Ben Clock Tower, the name ‘Big Ben’ actually refers to the bell housed within the tower, which reportedly takes its name from the man who first ordered it, Sir Benjamin Hall.
"I bet 99.9999 per cent of people think the whole edifice, tower and clock, is called Big Ben. It’s so famous that you could show a picture of it to someone living in the Gobi Desert and they would immediately say: Big Ben," writes Hill. "Even if both Houses of Parliament vote to change Clock Tower to Elizabeth Tower, no one will ever use the new name because no one ever used the old one."
Some MPs, however, are convinced that the name would be a great way to honour the Queen after her sixty years of being Monarch, and that a new name would be just as catchy.
MP Tobias Ellwood, who originally proposed the name change, said: "I cannot think of a greater tribute for Parliament to bestow than to rename such an iconic landmark as the Clock Tower."
Some have suggested that rather than being known as ‘Big Ben,’ the catchy and similarly alliterative ‘Big Beth’, may serve as an acceptable and fun new nickname.