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The most famous Turret clock of all is housed in the Palace of Westminster
The tower was raised as a part of Charles Barry's design for a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire on the night of 22 October 1834.
The new Parliament was built in a Neo-gothic Italian style. Although Barry was the chief architect of the Palace, he turned to Augustus Pugin for the design of the clock tower, which resembles earlier Pugin designs, including one for Scarisbrick Hall. The design for the Clock Tower was Pugin's last design before his final descent into madness and death, and Pugin himself wrote, at the time of Barry's last visit to him to collect the drawings: "I never worked so hard in my life for Mr Barry for tomorrow I render all the designs for finishing his bell tower & it is beautiful." The tower is designed in Pugin's celebrated Gothic Revival style, and is 96.3 metres (315.9 ft) high.
The bottom 61 metres (200 ft) of the Clock Tower's structure consists of brickwork with sand coloured Anston limestone cladding. The remainder of the tower's height is a framed spire of cast iron. The tower is founded on a 15-metre (49 ft) square raft, made of 3-metre (9.8 ft) thick concrete, at a depth of 4 metres (13 ft) below ground level. The four clock faces are 55 metres (180 ft) above ground. The interior volume of the tower is 4,650 cubic metres (164,200 cubic feet).
Because of changes in ground conditions since construction (notably tunnelling for the Jubilee Line extension), the tower leans slightly to the north-west, by roughly 220 millimetres (8.66 in) at the clock face, giving an inclination of approximately 1/250. Due to thermal effects it oscillates annually by a few millimetres east and west.
The clock faces are large enough to have once allowed the Clock Tower to be the largest four-faced clock in the world, but have since been outdone by the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. However, the builders of the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower did not add chimes to the clock, so the Great Clock of Westminster still holds the title of the "world's largest four-faced chiming clock".
The face of the Great Clock of Westminster. The hour hand is 2.7 metres (9 ft) long and the minute hand is 4.3 metres (14 ft) long. The clock and dials were designed by Augustus Pugin. The clock faces are set in an iron frame 7 metres (23 ft) in diameter, supporting 312 pieces of opal glass, rather like a stained-glass window. Some of the glass pieces may be removed for inspection of the hands. The surround of the dials is gilded. At the base of each clock face in gilt letters is the Latin inscription DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM, which means O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.
E.J Dent with the clock on test in his workshops
The idiom of putting a penny on, with the meaning of slowing down, sprang from the method of fine-tuning the clock's pendulum. On top of the pendulum is a small stack of old penny coins; these are to adjust the time of the clock. Adding or subtracting coins has the effect of minutely altering the position of the pendulum's centre of mass, the effective length of the pendulum rod and hence the rate at which the pendulum swings. Adding or removing a penny will change the clock's speed by 0.4 second per day.
During The Blitz, the Palace of Westminster was hit by German bombing, on 10 May 1941; a bombing raid damaged two of the clock faces and sections of the tower's stepped roof and destroyed the House of Commons chamber. Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed a new five-floor block. Two floors are occupied by the current chamber which was used for the first time on 26 October 1950. Despite the heavy bombing the clock ran accurately and chimed throughout the Blitz.
A couple of turret clocks that we have owned