“Let’s create a smaller version of London’s best-loved icon and whack it in Victoria.”
“What should we call it?”
“Little Ben of course!”
Sounds like a modern gimmick right?
In fact Little Ben was first installed in 1892, built by respected Croydon manufacturing firm Gillett & Johnston, established in 1844. It was designed to be a miniature version of the Elizabeth Tower (completed 1859) but in reality, aside from it being a clock tower, it’s not actually that similar.
It was removed in 1964 when the road was widened and almost never returned. However, with a generous gift of £30,000 from French Oil firm Elf Aquitaine UK, it was reinstalled in 1981 with the addition of a new inscription and PR spin; ‘Offered as a gesture of Franco-British Friendship’ written along the front.
This bit of PR also goes some way to explain the curious rhyming couplet that appears on the base, known as Little Ben’s apology for Summertime:
“My hands you may retard or may advance / My hearts beats true for England as for France”
The explanation is the clock is permanently set to daylight saving time, so it’s correct for France during the Winter and for the UK during the Summer.
It was removed for a second time on 28 January 2012 due to major works in the Victoria area, and was reinstalled on 28th February 2016.