Old Meeting House bell in Francestown has gone silent

  • The gear mechanism for the Old Meeting House bell is broken.  PHOTO COURTESY JAMIE PIKE

  • The Old Meeting House bell gear mechanism. —PHOTO COURTESY JAMIE PIKE

  • The gear mechanism in the Old Meeting House bell is broken. —PHOTO COURTESY JAMIE PIKE

  • The gear mechanism for the Old Meeting House bell is broken. —PHOTO COURTESY JAMIE PIKE

  • The Old Meeting House bell gear mechanism. —PHOTO COURTESY JAMIE PIKE

  • The Old Meeting House in Francestown. —STAFF PHOTO BY ROWAN WILSON

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/3/2023 2:24:13 PM

The Old Meeting House bell in Francestown normally rings on the hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But recently, it has been silent. 

Francestown Town Administrator Jamie Pike reported that he received an email from the clock keeper who was on duty on Saturday, Jan. 28, when the bell stopped ringing. The clock keeper said that while he was winding up the 112-year-old clock, he heard a loud snap. 

“When I went up Wednesday after talking to our clock repairman, it took me a while to find it,” Pike said, but he discovered that the gear that operates the bell-striker had snapped off its spindle. 

“If [the clock keeper’s] hands were not on the crank, the weight box would have crashed,” Pike said.

Pike said the bell was installed in 1855, after the previous 46-year-old bell cracked while ringing in the new year in 1854. The new bell required building a new spire on the top of the meeting house. Francestown Academy alumni and the town paid for a new clock in 1911, and the previous clock, built in 1835, is hanging in the second-story gallery. The town is responsible for maintaining the clock and bell. 

“We have four keepers of the clock,” Pike said. Their job is to wind up the clock once a week. The clock has two weight boxes, wooden boxes filled with rocks and bricks, that are lifted by a gear mechanism and gravity keeps the clock ticking for a week until it has to be wound up again. 

“That clock is rarely a minute off,” Pike said.

Pike has contacted the town’s clock repairman, Philip D'Avanza, who fixes clocks and steeples all over New England. His schedule is already full, so the bell may not be ringing again until spring.

“It is probably going to take some time to get it fixed,” Pike said, “These aren’t parts that are on the shelf.”

The clock is still telling time, and Pike is sure the community will miss its hourly tolling.

Pike said the bell is still in good shape, but the town is are planning to replace the wooden structure that holds the 168-year-old bell.

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