Bob Deane & historic bell

Grafton historians continue sleuthing to find an answer

Article & images by Valerie Macdonald

The history of the old school bell that hangs in front of the main entrance of Grafton Public School holds a secret that the members of the Heritage Alnwick/Haldimand Committee have not been able to unlock.

The inscription, “Bewdley Worcestershire 1826” confirms it was manufactured by C P Bancks of England. Comprehensive research has led the committee members to believe it was then transported to Bewdley at the west end of Rice Lake where it was used both for a school and an Anglican Church that stood until the late 1840s.

How it came to be moved to Grafton remains a mystery although the committee is not giving up and continues to do research, says local historian Robert Deane of Grafton.

It was William Bancks who “laid out the Village of Bewdley” back in the early 1800s according to the summary Deane wrote about the old school bell which was recently provided to Alnwick/Haldimand councillors.

The bell story is contained in the upcoming heritage book, “Township Tales.” he said in an interview this week.

The soft-covered, 200-page book will feature historical buildings and stories of the township’s past and is expected to be released this summer, he said. The township is funding the project, and he estimates the book will cost about $10.

In the historical account about the school bell, Deane details how it came to be the colour it now is.

“The bluish patina is typical of the metal alloy bronze. A small scraping through the patina to the metal shows a bronze colour rather than the yellow colour of brass metal – in other words, less copper in the alloy.

Research shows that bells were made of a special bronze alloy called ‘bell metal’ which gave a superior tone to the ring. A search of photos of dozens of old bells all shows them having that bluish tinge to the patina. Bell metal is 78 % copper and 22% tin.”

Interest in the bell started when the heritage committee was asked how it could be cleaned, Deane said, adding that committee members don’t want that to happen.

“The patina is part of its history, nearly 200 years outside in all weather,” he said.

Others have tried to clean such bells with “poor results” and then resorted to professional cleaners who have quoted hundreds of dollars only to have it “just tarnish again,” he explained.

Students and school principal Renee Cameron will work with the heritage committee on “ideas for the children to commemorate the Old School Bell,” Deane added.

Meantime, the history enthusiast said he is continuing his search for more data on just “how the bell got to Grafton.”