Ever Visited Little Ben?

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 11 months ago
Ever Visited Little Ben?

My hands you may retard or may advance
My heart beats true for England as for France.

In typical British style, Little Ben is apologetic. It's apologetic because almost half the time it tells the wrong time. The cast iron miniature Big Ben replica — stood in the middle of a traffic island in Victoria, 15 minutes' walk south west of its big brother — is permanently set to daylight saving time.

When the clocks go back every October, it stays jammed on the 'wrong' time for another five months.

What's the point of the pint-sized imitator? Commemorative clocks of this kind were popular around the time this was made, in 1892. Its proximity to Victoria station mean it was probably there to help out non watch-carrying commuters (daylight saving was still a way off in the late 19th century).

But if its specific purpose was to commemorate Big Ben's completion, Little Ben was 33 years late.

Big from the right angles.

Clerkenwell is generally considered the former clock capital of London, but this miniature icon was built in Croydon. Surprisingly, and happily, its makers Gillett & Johnston are still building clocks —now based just outside Croydon, in Bletchingly.

The details and colours on Little Ben are somewhat different to Big Ben's, but it is apparently a scale likeness. And we do like these foreboding scythe-wielding angels:

One handy thing about Little Ben is that it's transportable. As its own plaque says, it was taken down in 1964, then reappeared in 1981, with help from oil company Elf Aquitaine (its new purpose, now apparently "a gesture of Franco-British friendship").

Little Ben was removed again in 2011, for extensive works to Victoria station, and has only been back in its spot since early 2016.

Not everyone walks past it.

Still, unlike its big brother, it can at least wear its cheeky moniker with complete confidence. A plaque on the clock clearly states it's called "Little Ben." Step away from the timepiece, pedants.

Last Updated 08 December 2016