Radio actuality recordings

A unique collection of original BBC and other radio actuality recordings brings to life the London of the 1920s to the 1950s. These sounds were captured at street markets, fairgrounds, skittle alleys, auction houses, hopfields and elsewhere.

Inside the Big Ben tower 1948

THE CHIMES OF Big Ben first appeared on BBC radio at the very end of 1923 to announce the New Year. In December 1948 this recording (catalogue number 825677) marked the 25th anniversary of Big Ben’s broadcasting career.

Because the recording was made inside the tower there’s plenty of intriguing mechanical detail in addition to the tolling of the quarter bells and the 13-ton Great Bell.

Big Ben is the unofficial name for the Great Bell. Other London bell names include Great Paul and Great Tom in St Pauls Cathedral, and the inscribed names on the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside: Katherine, Fabian, Christopher, Margaret, Mildred, Faith, Augustine, John, Timothy, Pancras, Cuthbert and Bow.

Recording © copyright BBC. Audio digitisation and restoration by the London Sound Survey. Many thanks to BBC Worldwide for granting permission to reproduce this recording here.

Inside Big Ben 1:18