Leaning Tower…of London or how the Big Ben emulates the campanile in Pisa

Big Ben´s tower would eventual become the leaning tower of London, joining if so St Walfriduskerk in the Netherlands, the medieval steeple in Suurhusen in north-western Germany, the temple of Huma in Orissa, India, and the campanile in Pisa. It is leaning.

However, and following The Guardian concise way of finding an explanation for otherwise embarrassing situation, “Being British, and being built of such hardy materials as cast iron girders, stone from Yorkshire and Normandy, and Cornish granite, it is only leaning slightly”.

Not being happy with simply becoming the youngest member of the leaning towers, British official sources highlight that “a mere tilt of 0.25 degrees is a bagatelle compared to the extravagant four degrees at which the tower of Pisa is tilting, and it would take 4,000 years to equal that”.

Actually, the Big Ben´s tower leans 0.26 degrees to the north-west, putting it out of alignment by about 0.5m at its highest point. The 0.26 degree angle is one 16th of the Leaning Tower of Pisa’s tilt.

Mike McCann, keeper of the great clock, told BBC London: “We have been monitoring it since 1999, so we’ve got some pretty good data. “Our resident expert believes it will be between 4,000 and 10,000 years before it becomes a problem. “So it’s not significant today, but we do need to keep an eye on it.”

But let´s try to carry on a self-examination. Why the quintessentially British icon is losing its straightness?

  • Big Ben has been variously undermined by a sewer built in the 1860s to the District line,
  • an underground car park for MPs
  • and the Jubilee line extension.
  • However, the seismic event which caused it to lurch an eighth of an inch sometime between November 2002 and August 2003 remains a mystery…Or at least these are some of the points remarked by the Transport for London last research on the topic.

In short, experts are unsure what is causing the tower to lean. But one theory is that the London clay on which the tower was built is drying out.



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