Minor British Institutions: Little Ben

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The Independent Online

A minor version of its much more famous namesake, Little Ben is a miniature – well, 30ft – replica of Big Ben that can be found, slightly forlornly, on a traffic island near to Victoria station.

Most of it dates back to 1892 (its Big Brother was "born" in 1859), when it was manufactured by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon, and it is a sort of urban folly. Of cast iron and bearing its sibling's impressively neo-gothic features on its four faces, it was removed in 1964 when the road was widened, and almost lost.

But in 1981, as a gesture of Franco-British friendship and to mark the royal wedding of Charles and Diana, the Elf Aquitaine oil company footed the £30,000 bill to restore it.

Little Ben cannot always be relied upon; it sticks to British Summer Time, even though an inscription on the clock reads: "My hands you may retard or may advance; my heart beats true for England as for France". A replica of Little Ben, this time "full size", can be found in Victoria, capital of the Seychelles.

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