Green light from Clock Tower at Houses of Parliament

February 25, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Posted in Clock Tower, Green light, Houses of Parliament, London, Palace of Westminster, Photography, Sights | 9 Comments
Green light on Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster 25 February 2008

A vivid green shone out from the Clock Tower on the Palace of Westminster, as Big Ben (the bell inside the Clock Tower) struck a quarter to seven this evening.

Is is always that green?



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  1. Is there some significance to the green light?

  2. Dear Darmok,

    I had hoped someone might answer your question, but have found no-one who is sufficiently intimate with the Clock Tower to know. I shall have to email a few more people …

  3. Ahh … I just discovered:

    “Above the clock is a lantern known as the Ayrton Light, which is lit whenever Parliament is meeting after dark.”

    On Monday night, when we were at the Heathrow end-of-consultation rally in Westminster, there was emergency voting in Parliament. The reason for that was the speed with which legislation to nationalise Northern Rock had to be pushed through both Houses (Commons and Lords). So, from the rally, MPs who were planning on speaking to us had to keep nipping back to the House of Commons to vote! What they have to put up with is nobody’s business.

    Anyway, that explains why the green Ayrton Light was lit in the Clock Tower.

    In other words, no, I did not PhotoShop it! 😉

  4. P.S. I like to think of it as a good sign. Now there’s some news from Greenpeace: Government “wobbling” over Heathrow

  5. That’s a neat idea!

    Hmmmm…puts me in the mood to re-read The Great Gatsby …

  6. Dear Darmok,

    I thought of you yesterday as I took these photographs. Now, why would you want to read The Great Gatsby?

  7. Green is the colour of the House of Commons, so it might be for this reason that it has been chosen, although its selection was certainly partly and perhaps entirely based on aesthetic criteria.

    This is a standard element of the Clock Tower’s illumination; the Ayrton light is up in the lantern, and is not lit in this picture. (Architecturally, a lantern is “a structure topping a cupola, dome, or other roof with openings to admit light or air”, in this case the vertical component separating the roof into two parts.) An internal view of the light can be found in the UK Parliament’s Flickr photostream. As for external views of the light in action… You actually have two—and they have already been linked to from this page.

  8. Thank you, The Duke of Waltham, for explaining the difference between the green zone at the top of the Clock Tower and the white Ayrton Light (inside the lantern) which is lit when either House is sitting.
    Noting that the Clock Tower, Great Clock and Great Bell (aka Big Ben) are celebrating their 150 years to date in 2009, I looked up the Ayrton Light in the Clock Tower facts and serendipitously stumbled upon this video on YouTube:

  9. I have seen the video (and others), and found it most interesting and informative. I have also found a virtual tour of the Clock Tower, and a presentation of the Great Clock’s operation—it’s very illuminating, though I’m not sure I’ve fully understood exactly how the escapement works.

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