This bell hangs in the Lewis Carroll Centre at All Saints’ Church. Have you seen it? There are various theories as to why it was cast. The inscription reads ‘1772 Duke of Bridgewater’.
This was the year that the Bridgewater Canal reached Preston Brook. Its full length to Worsley was delayed by an objection raised by Sir Richard Brooke. We think the bell was cast to celebrate the opening.
There was a floating chapel on the canal from 1840 until the 1880’s and there was a theory that the bell hung here. But it’s unlikely as a large, heavy bell on a smallish boat doesn’t seem quite right.
Plans were drawn up for the conversion of a flat (boat) called Vulcan into a floating school. It was proposed to create a school room, with kitchen, parlour, stairs and two bedrooms for the schoolmaster. The bell may have been used to tell the children it was time for school. However, we have no evidence to suggest that the Vulcan was ever converted in this way. Frustratingly, the plans are not dated, though they can be seen in the National Boat Museum.
Both a chapel and school are marked on the 1881 OS map, standing adjacent to Norton Warehouse. That the floating chapel was lifted out of the water in 1880 is well documented, but we know nothing really about this school – was it the converted Vulcan, or another building?
The bell was rescued from the ruins of the Norton Warehouse after it burned down, taken into safekeeping and given to the Lewis Carroll Centre when it opened. Maybe it had been there all along.