Man in search of a bell for his tower

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NORWAY — Jim Bryant, the man Norway residents know as the keeper of the Opera House clock, is in need of a bell.

“I am interested in finding a bell to go with the tower clock that I have,” the Wayne resident said. He bought the tower clock from the Universalist-Unitarian Church on Silver Street in Waterville a few years ago but needs a bell to make it work, he said.

Bryant, who has been fixing clocks for the last 50 years, said he was interested in acquiring the bell in the tower of the former Norway Methodist Church at Beal and Lynn streets, but selectmen nixed the idea at their meeting Thursday. They said they were not comfortable with the idea of separating the bell from the 1880s church building.

The 1889 Robinson bell in the former Norway Methodist Church is not rare or considered top of the line in terms of cast bells, Bryant said. The C.T. Robinson company was based in Boston. Bryant said the bell weighs more than 1,000 pounds.

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Town Manager David Holt told the board he had the same reservations about the bell being moved because it is part of the historic church, but he understood that Bryant feels it should be ringing, if not there, somewhere else. The former church is owned by the town and has been used as a day-care center for about 20 years.

Bryant said the Waterville church decided to keep its bell after determining the steeple had to come down due to deterioration, which left Bryant with an 1832 tower clock but no bell to make it work. He has been looking for a bell ever since.

“They just couldn’t afford it,” he said of the Waterville congregation’s desire to restore the church steeple. “They asked if I would be willing to buy their clock tower. I did. I have it in my shop.”

He said it has a metal framework with cast iron brass wheels and takes up a space about 4 by 8 feet.

The bell would have one granite weight to run the clock’s hands and another granite weight to strike the bell.

Bryant said he has been searching for several years but without success. He hoped to acquire the bell in the Baptist Church in Lewiston before it was razed this year, but that quest was also unsuccessful. The new owner apparently has the bell now.

In Boothbay Harbor, an old schoolhouse was torn down, and the tower clock and bell “just disappeared” one day, Bryant said. “These things happen.”

Once he acquires a bell and gets the tower clock working, he is not sure where it will end up.

“I’m 76. I have no idea where this clock goes,” Bryant said. He has had his restored tower clocks wind up in places such as a museum in Maryland.

Anyone who knows of an available bell made of bronze or bell metal, a hard alloy that is in part a form of bronze, and that does not “cost a fortune” may contact Bryant at 847 Main St., Wayne, ME 04284, 458-0872.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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