What is this?
Ship’s bell said to be removed from HMS Guerriere in 1812.
When is it from?
Why is it Important?
Tradition says that this bell was removed from HMS Guerriere as a substitute for Constitution‘s, destroyed during the August 19, 1812 battle. A story published in the Boston Daily Advertiser in 1897 claimed that the bell “was sold among a lot of condemned naval stores between 1812 and 1816…The purchaser was S. H. Smith, who took it to Providence [RI] and places it in the belfry of the factory in Lincoln [the “Butterfly” cotton mill in Saylesville, RI built about 1815], where it hangs today.” Other sources claim that the bell was removed in1835, during one of the ship’s other refits. Unfortunately, there is no period documentary evidence to confirm either story, but the tale is not entirely implausible. At any rate the bell has certainly seen a great deal of service.
Pieter Seest was born in Hadersleben (now in Holstein, Germany) around 1715. He became foreman of the city of Amsterdam’s bell and cannon factory, operated under lease to Braamcamp, Dibbetz & van Aalst. In 1770 he was appointed director of the foundry. HMS Guerriere was built in Cherbourg, France in 1799. Amsterdam was under French control at the time, so it is possible that the bell by Pieter Seest was commandeered to outfit the new frigate.
A ship’s bell made of cast bronze, 26 ½ inches high overall, 18 7/8 inches from rim to shank, and 19 5/8 inches wide at rim. The bell has a thick, integrally cast crown pierced by a square hole centered in a domed top. To the crown is attached a hand wrought iron yoke. The shoulder is slightly rounded, and its body flares to a straight, crisp rim. It is decorated with a cove and three raised filets or molding wires at the shoulder, three raised double filets below the shoulder, seven raised filets at the waist, and three raised filets at the rim. Between two raised double filets below the shoulder is a band of repeated floral patterning, and below that is a cast inscription reading “ME FECIT PIETER SEEST AMSTELODAM ANNO 1765.” A date, “1813,” has been chiseled into the top near the shoulder. Inside, a large globular cast iron clapper and an integral solid rod are attached to a massive wrought iron eye rooted in the cast bronze. Corrosion is visible inside the bell and there is evidence of regular use.