By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, August 27, 2004
"Presented to the town of Hampton, N. H., July 1897.
By John T. Brown of Newburyport, Mass.,
descendent of John and Sarah Brown
who settled in Hampton, 1639."
HAMPTON - The remaining parts of the town clock, which was severely damaged when the Odd Fellows building was destroyed in a fire in 1990, will be put up for auction. However, a former selectman thinks the decision should be up to the town.
Selectmen voted Monday night to sell the broken parts to raise enough money to restore the bell and one of the four faces of the clock.
The vote came after the Heritage Commission's concluded that the $40,000 cost of repairing the clock was too much to bear.
"We looked at it, and it would cost too much to restore it," said commission member Elizabeth Aykroyd. "Although the clock is of historical interest, the fire damage of the clockworks was considerable. A number of the parts are missing, and those which remain are twisted, bent and badly rusted."
In a letter to selectmen, Aykroyd said a reconstruction of the clock would be possible, but it would be a painstaking process.
"Even if the funds were available to restore the clock, there is at the moment no suitable place to put it," said Aykroyd. "The pendulum alone is 8 feet long. It would be necessary to build some type of tower or belfry, which would require considerable additional public funding."
"I think what the general consensus was that if we sell the parts that were damaged to a clock dealer to auction off we could at least restore the bell," said Selectman Cliff Pratt.
Pratt, who also serves on the Heritage Commission as the selectmen's representative, said the clock wasn't worth saving.
The clock parts are being stored in Town Hall inside the crates the 1897 clock came in.
After the 1990 fire, the location of the clock parts became unknown. They were located shortly after selectmen began pressing for their whereabouts in 2000.
One face of the clock and a bell were discovered in a barn at the Highway Department headquarters.
Another face of the clock was retrieved from Lamie's Inn & Tavern, where it had been stored since the fire.
The clock was given to the town by a Newburyport resident, John T. Brown, as a gift in 1897.
According to an 1897 Newburyport Morning Herald account, Hampton resident Charles M. Lamprey accepted the gift on behalf of the town.
"The Town of Hampton accepts this clock and receives the gift with much heartfelt thanks and with the promise that she will perform her duty, keeping it in good order, that its face may be looked upon by generations to come," stated Lamprey.
Former Selectman Bonnie Searle, who spearheaded the campaign to find the clock in 2000, said she thought selectmen should not have acted so quickly.
"That was a gift to the citizens of the town," said Searle. "It should go before a vote to see whether the citizens want to get rid of it."