After more than 100 years of silence, the great bell known as the Martin Bell at the La Martiniere College, was raised from its pedestal for examination on Sunday, according to a post by principal Carlyle McFarland on Facebook. He also shared video clips to give everyone a glimpse of how it was raised.
“There was no gong attached to the bell. Despite a giant crack, a handheld hammer produced a clear peal. Now to get the gong replaced and a system of elevation installed for the bell to ring on special occasions,” McFarland’s post said.
“The bell is known to have been installed in the North Tower of the Constantia palace in which La Martiniere College is now run. This was known as bell tower and could only be accessed from within the building,” the principal said.
The bell was rung in an emergency. It is recorded that instructions were given for the bell to be rung in case of any attack during the turbulent times of 1857, when Constantia palace was roughly fortified, he said.
Principal McFarland said the bell was cast in the arsenal of the Nawab of Oudh in 1796 under the erstwhile Lt Col Claude Martin (later Maj Gen) when he was appointed by the East India Company as its superintendent.
For political reasons, he supervised the production of weapons for both the Nawab’s army and the forces of the East India Company. The arsenal was situated at Kothi Hayat Baksh, the current Raj Bhawan. The basement of this structure still exhibits signs of its original use.
Carlyle McFarland said, “For decades the bell was placed on a wooden stand in the crypt of Constantia. The gong was removed at some time. At the turn of the 20th century, it was relocated as a garden embellishment on the East Terrace. This coincided with the positioning of the cannons on the East Terrace, the central canon also being cast under Maj Gen Claude Martin and used in the Third Mysore War.”
“The bell is being examined and its specifications noted. A large crack indicates damage over the centuries, yet when rung by a makeshift hand held hammer, the sound produced was true,” he said.
The principal has assured that the position of the bell would not be changed. A chain pulley mechanism would be used on special solemn occasions when the bell would be formally used.