The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, London 1860
Big Ben is probably one of the most famous clock towers in the world and continues to dominate the London Skyline even after all these years. The bell inside weighs more than 13 tons and is called Big Ben. Its tower is officially called Elizabeth Tower. Connected to the Houses of Parliament, the original palace of Westminster, Big Ben (when it works) helps Londoners to keep the time and marks important hours and silences, including Remembrance Day.
The main materials used to create Elizabeth Tower were Yorkshire Anston stone and Cornish Granite. These stones were used to construct the exterior of the tower, whilst internally iron girders and zinc were used to support the bell – Big Ben.
The original Palace of Westminster, which now serves as the home of the British government’s Parliament, was destroyed by a fire in 1834. Nearly a decade later, plans were made to construct a new, Gothic revival-style stone building. Designed by Charles Barry to blend in seamlessly with the surviving medieval buildings, the ornate Parliament building and the tower took 30 years to build.
The Houses of Parliament used Anston Quarry limestone externally, as it was cheap to purchase and lent itself well to the carving required. However, after a short period of time, it was clear that the air pollution in London was destroying the limestone, and the walls were starting to decay. After a large piece fell off the Victoria Tower, it was clear something had to be done, and restoration work began. It is clear that restoration projects on the Houses of Parliament will continue periodically to keep the building in good condition.
The Great Wall of China, Northern China 210 B.C
The Great Wall of China was built over 2,000 years ago by Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang to protect the Chinese people from northern invaders. The wall is made up of stone, brick, wood, and earth and spans nearly 4,000 miles. Much of the original wall has been destroyed over time, but the Ming dynasty rebuilt much of it in the 1300s. Today, the Great Wall is one of the most famous stone structures in the world.
During the early stages of its build, the Great Wall of China was mostly constructed with compacted earth and wood. Over time the wall has been strengthened and extended and in some places uses brick, granite and marble blocks to keep it standing strong.
Approximately 5000 miles long, it would take you around 18 months to walk the wall from start to finish. It begins at the Shanhai Pass and ends at Jiayu Pass and is known as the longest cemetery as it is thought that at least 1 million people died whilst building the wall.
The Pyramids at Giza, Egypt 2575 B.C
The three Egyptian pyramids outside of Cairo each house the tomb of a different Pharaoh: Khufu, his son Khafre, and his son Menkaure. Out of the three, Khufu’s tomb is known as the Great Pyramid because it’s the biggest, reaching a height of 481 feet. The construction of all three structures took approximately 70 years, from 2575 to 2465 BC.
Even now, experts are unsure of how the stone blocks from nearby quarries were lifted into the pyramid shapes. Some believe that the work was done by tens of thousands of farmers during the off-season. Regardless of how they were built, the pyramids are a solid testament to the engineering skills of the ancient Egyptians, as they have managed to stand the test of time and still astound people today.
Limestone was the main material used to construct the Pyramids of Giza. Rough limestone was used for the core of the pyramid, whilst fine limestone was used to cover the interior walls and as an outer casing. Granite was used alongside limestone to cover the interior walls, but it was not as readily available, so it was used more sparingly. Basalt was used to cover the floors. Extracted from pits or underground deposits that could be found near to lakes, the stone was transported up the Nile and onto the pyramid construction site.
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