Who Tolls For The Bells?

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'An Editorial'

The Hampton Union and Rockingham County Gazette

Thursday, January 9, 1958

[Bell photos courtesy John Hirtle, Atlantic News - 2001]
The Hampton Academy bell
Hampton Academy 1859 bell
1859 - 1940

Concern for Hampton's grounded school bell was expressed by Mrs. Eloise Lane Smith in a letter to the Union this week, in which she wrote in part: " . . . As you may know, the bell that was on the old Hampton Academy, when it was located on the Meeting House Green and later when the high school was on Academy Avenue, is still in existence.

"It is, I think, in the basement of the present high school. It was put there for safe keeping, about 1939, when the old Academy building was taken down.

"Generations of students were called to their classes by the ringing of this old bell . . ."

With curiosity aroused as to what became of the bell that had hung in the steeple of the old Hampton Academy building for so many years, the Union photographer found it partially buried in the unfinished cellar of the high school building, along with many other outmoded and discarded school furniture, instructional aids, etc., but despite the lack of care, the bell appears to be in perfect condition.

Criticism is not intended here -- as a matter of fact, those responsible for salvaging the bell when the old building was dismantled and sold, should be commended for their foresight.

It is understood that to build a strong enough structure to accommodate the weighty instrument was considered economically prohibitive when the present high school building was designed in 1939, and as a result, the bell ended up at the bottom of the building rather than the top.

However, since the bell dates back over a hundred years and considering that it is one of the few remaining things that were a part of Hampton's first secondary school, we find ourselves in accord with Mrs. Smith that steps should be taken to preserve it. Possible a suitable case or hanger could be erected where it might be prominently displayed inside the main entrance of the building.

The old town hall bell is suffering a similar fate as it presently rests in a shed behind the town office, sharing the same stall with a road grader. Though it appears to be in excellent condition, at the present time it is vunerable to breakage and some day a careless workman may ruin its beautiful tone with the blade of a plow.

Again, no one is to blame for lack of care -- and again, commendation is in order to those responsible for carefully lowering it from the tower of the charred remains of the old town hall.

A few who answered the school bell's call to classes and remember the town hall bell's call to Sunday worship, may share our sentiments, our interest, and our hope that both bells be restored somewhere, somehow, and soon.

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