Manchester by the Sea Meeting House Steeple
Work is beginning again on our Steeple this July!
At the Manchester Town Meeting on April 6, voters approved the funding of several projects recommended by the Community Preservation
Committee. Among them was the restoration of the four clock faces in the steeple of our church. The amount approved is $48,200. Our church qualified for this funding because it was Manchester’s former Meeting House during much of the first half of the 19th century and it is on the Federal Government’s list of National Historic Places.
As you can see from the pictures, the clock faces (one on each side of the steeple) are in poor condition. The clock faces and the clock mechanism (which still functions today) were acquired and installed in the steeple by the Town in 1882.
New Bell Cradle
The Bell at the First Parish Church Meeting House is now resting on its new cradle. Work is progressing on the striker repairs. We are hopeful to have the Bell ringing soon!
Work is underway on the Steeple at First Parish Church. Manchester-by-the-Sea Community Preservation Funds granted at town meeting this Spring are being used to fund the repairs. George Burgess, Steeple Jack, is leading the work. Shown below is the Bell on its temporary cradle, which held it securely during the winter. Since this photo the 2000 lb. Bell was suspended from the ceiling while the cradle was rebuilt.
Bell Wood Removal
As of February, 2013, the Steeple Bell of the First Parish Meeting House/Church is no longer rung for such events as weddings. In September striking the bell on the hour was also stopped because the bell cradle is deteriorating. In October steeplejack George Burgess of Rockport, ME secured the bell with rigging cable back to the main structure to keep it from toppling.
More extensive repairs will be needed in 2014, including replacement of the steeple roof & bell cradle, refurbishment of the bell strikers and restoration of the steeple clock faces & elements, (special considerations are required since the bell is rung hourly via the master clock). The Meeting House Bell has proclaimed many joyous events from local weddings to the end of the Civil War, peace on the Western Front in 1918, and V-E Day and V-J Day in 1945. It has tolled in honor and memory of Abraham Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy, the victims of 9/11 and Sandy Hook. It is bound in the fabric of our lives as it alerts us in Manchester-by-the-Sea of the hour.
The sound of the bell is missed by the townspeople and visitors, there have been a number of phone calls asking when the bell will chime again!
The town meeting house is a historical gem that graces the village green, the town gathers here not only for funerals and weddings but also for the Annual Friendship Tree program & lighting, and before the One Night in Bethlehem event .
Your financial support is always appreciated., our Annual Fund Drive is ongoing, or if you prefer you can donate directly to the steeple, clock or striker repairs, just note it on your check.
Donations can be sent to First Parish Church P.O. Box 187 Manchester, MA 01944
Steeple Bell Damage Fall 2013
History of the Bell
THE STEEPLE BELL OF MANCHESTER
Manchester’s first Meeting House bell was presented to the town in 1695, but could not be hung until a steeple was built for it the following year. In 1719, it was transferred to the newly-built second meeting house. In 1785, a larger bell was purchased by the town and it could be heard at a greater distance. More decibels were needed as the community grew and houses moved farther from the center. Besides, it had been agreed that the Meeting House bell was the only source of alarm for fire and for warning of a possible attack by British naval raiding parties during the War of 1812. On at least one occasion, it proved its worth as a feature of the town’s Homeland Security system during the war. It also summoned volunteer firefighters every time there was q mill fire at one of the town’s furniture factories (which was not infrequent in the days of live flame lighting and heating before electricity), as well as calling people to worship services on Sundays.
In 1845, thanks in large measure to a generous gift of $500 from Captain Benjamin Allen as well as donations from others, a new and larger bell was installed in the tower. That bell lasted until 1915 when it was cracked by a shot fired from the old cannon on Powder House Hill in celebration of the Fourth of July. It has never been established whether a shot actually hit the bell or whether it was cracked by the concussion of the gun.
The damaged bell was removed and taken to be recast, but its silver was reported stolen when it was melted down to be poured into the mold. There was reportedly a great furor, especially when it was found that Selectman had their names inscribed upon the bell when it was recast. In righteous anger, an unidentified citizen went to the belfry and chiseled the names off. Without silver in the alloy, the harmonious C-sharp tone the bell once had was no more and it now sounds more like a skillet being struck and its note cannot be found on the musical scale. Still it calls parishioners to worship and sounds the hour.
The tower bell has proclaimed many joyous events from local weddings to the end of the Civil War, , peace on the Western Front in 1918, and V-E Day and V-J Day in 1945. The bell also tolled in honor and memory of Abraham Lincoln following receipt of the news of has assassination in 1865, and may rung for the reasons, the shooting of President John F. Kennedy in 1964. At one point, a striker was attached to the bell which rang automatically when a fire alarm box was pulled. The lights, which illuminate the bell tower at night, were given in loving memory of Ida Capello Sweeney, wife of P. Edward Sweeney, Superintendent of Streets in Manchester for many years.