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History Index: Church Index:

St. Alban's doesn't have bats in its belfry
Oct 17 2000 12:00AM  By Fred H. Keller Staff Writer

Church photo below added May 15, 2005 Mike Reilly

Recently, the 12-year sexton of St. Alban's Episcopal Church gave this reporter a conducted tour of the 125-year-old St. Alban's bell tower.

In the climb up the interior of the bell tower, particular attention was paid to the possibility of there being bats in the belfry. The sexton, Mike Knapp, said that in years prior, he observed bats in the attic of the church, so it was possible. On this inspection, no bats were observed.

The tower, built in 1875, is 11 by 14 feet at the base and 65 feet tall. When it was built, it was the tallest structure in Sussex for many years. It is still one of the tallest local structures.

The stone church was built in 1864-66 without a bell tower. The walls are more than three feet thick. The rural English Gothic construction used stone from the James Weaver quarry, which is today the Halquist Quarry, north of Lisbon Road.

Again in 1875, the Weaver quarry furnished the stone, this time for the belfry.

Before 1875, a big iron triangle with a handy striker bar was used to summon the faithful of the 1842-started church.

In November 1874, there was a change in leadership of St. Alban's, with the Rev. E. P. Wright becoming the pastor. He noted the absence of the bell and a bell tower.

On Jan. 10, 1875, the leadership of the church met and "moved and carried that the vestry of St. Alban's are instructed to purchase a bell for the church and that the bell be 1,000 pounds in weight."

The bell was soon delivered and initially mounted on four oak posts to the south of the entrance to the church.

Masons James Elliott and Edward Weaver were working at building the 32-inch-thick tower walls. Henry Boots' old chestnut horse was employed to raise the stone and mortar by block and tackle.

There is no story available of how the bell got to the top. One theory is that it was raised by block and tackle. Another theory is that it was inside the tower as it went up and after each couple of days of construction, it was raised internally up a few more feet, until it was at its final height.

At one time, the bell was used frequently for both church and some civil happenings. Today, it is used only for church services and funerals.

Back 50 years ago, any time a parish member died, the sexton rang the bell.

The sexton used codes to indicate the sex and age of the person who had died. The code was: if the bell tolled three times, two bongs meant a woman had died; three times, three bongs meant a man had died; two times, three bongs meant a boy had died; and two times, two bongs meant a girl had died.

This was followed by spaced bongs for the years the person lived. In 1896, when William Weaver died (1802-96), there were three sets of three bongs and then 93 bongs to signify the years he had lived.

A series of steep ladders lift visitors from one interior floor to the next. The ladders are made with true 2-inch-by-4-inch boards, with cut rungs nailed with square nails into the 2 by 4s.

The bell has this inscribed on it: "The Meneely Bell Foundry, West Troy, N.Y. 1875." The bell is 3 feet high and 3 feet in circumference.

İSussex Sun 2001

St. Alban's Church c. 1972

 

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