LONDON -- Big Ben has a little bend.

Experts say the neogothic clock tower is gently leaning to one side. Documents recently published by Parliament show that the top of its gilded spire is nearly 18 inches out of line.

The 315-foot tower is leaning northwesterly at an angle of 0.26 degrees, according to a 2009 report recently obtained by the Sunday Telegraph through a Freedom of Information request.

But there's no cause for alarm, experts said. It would take thousands of years before the London landmark's tilt matches that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.

The clock tower, colloquially known as Big Ben after its massive bell, has been slightly off center since it was erected in the mid-19th century.

Like many old buildings, its position has been shifting imperceptibly for years due to environmental factors such as seasonal temperature and moisture level changes.

"We're talking about unbelievably small movements," said John Burland, an engineering professor at Imperial College London who has been involved in the study on the tower.

Even so, the tilt might now be just about visible to the naked eye. -- AP

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