£5 coin keeps Big Ben on time
A coin bearing an image of Britain's most famous clock is now being used to keep it striking on time. A £5 Crown marking the 150th anniversary of the Great Clock at the Palace of Westminster, London, today replaced some of the pre-decimal pennies which have been used since 1859.
The clock is often called Big Ben, which is really the name given to the Great Bell inside the famous clock tower which is also celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The tower was finished in early 1859: the Great Clock started on May 31 and Big Ben's strikes were heard for the first time on July 11.
The ceremony to place the 2009 £5 Crown inside the movement of the Great Clock was part of the anniversary celebrations. The last time a commemorative coin was added was in 1977 when the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee.
Mike McCann, keeper of the Great Clock, said: "There is a long and historic relationship between Big Ben and the UK's coins. Few people realise the technical role the old pennies have played inside the clock.
"For 150 years, coins have been used to adjust the time of the clock - adding or subtracting them effects the pendulum's centre of mass and the rate at which it swings. Using the new Royal Mint Big Ben Crown is a great way to celebrate this relationship."
Mr McCann added: "The fact that Big Ben is still so iconic for Londoners and indeed, the nation, is testament to its engineering genius. I am thrilled that The Royal Mint has decided to celebrate our country's achievements with the launch of a special coin."
Dave Knight, the director of commemorative coins at The Royal Mint, said the coin changeover was "the perfect way to help celebrate. We are honoured to be allowed to place one of the new Royal Mint £5 Crowns inside the clock itself."
The coin is part of a collection celebrating the 2012 London Olympics and 100,000 of the Crowns showing the clock face on the reverse have been minted. The designs were chosen to highlight aspects of Britain's identity and achievements. The clock face symbolises democracy and the key role Britain has played through its Parliament in bringing democracy to the world.