The Grand Opening of The Lewis Carroll Centre


 Back in 1998 (the centenary year of Lewis Carroll's death) there were plans to turn the empty building at the end of the Ring o' Bells pub into the Lewis Carroll Birthplace Museum, but I do know several problems arose to stop this project from happening.
     So it came as a big surprise to read about ‘the building work on the new Lewis Carroll Room and shop extension at Daresbury Church, and that the official opening date was put back to 25th September' in the Bandersnatch, issue 151 (July 2011). Then in the Bandersnatch, issue 153 ( January 2012 ) Keith Wright reported that ‘sadly, the opening of the new Lewis Carroll room attached to the church had to be postponed because thieves had raided the building site in August and set the work back several weeks. The rooms were finished in early December and brought into use but the official opening is now to be in better weather, hopefully, on 25th March 2012.' So I became keen to join the Daresbury Lewis Carroll Society and attend this official opening in person.

The ‘better weather' in March was very much an under statement for it was the hottest day of the year so far and it felt more like July or August. I caught the train from Sheffield to Warrington, and met society member Margaret Tye at 2.30 to share a taxi together. The visitors did have their own seat allocation in the form of their name printed on a booklet of All Saints’ Church, Daresbury on the pews (right). I was sat next to a lady whose husband was the organist for the day.

The sermon was given by Dr. Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, (who was late by 10 minutes due to an accident on the motorway), it did contain plenty of references to Lewis Carroll's fascination with language which included Humpty Dumpty's statement: "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less’ and that Carroll could change the meaning of a word such as Portmanteau-a leather travelling case, and to reinvent it as an artificial word combining two distinct words, such as chortle from chuckle and snort, galumph from gallop and triumph, and squarson from squire and parson.

The service included readings from Genesis 28: 10-19 and Ephesians 2: 19-end, the popular hymn Angel-voices ever singing round thy throne of light, and was conducted by the Revd. Canon David Felix. He was an enthusiastic champion of this project and became emotional over the thanks he received and also because of the event coinciding with his daughter’s birthday.

The red ribbon was cut and the centre officially opened by the Lord Lieutenant of  Cheshire, Mr David Briggs MBE, shown left with ‘Alice’ from Llandudno. The Lewis Carroll Centre is a semi circular room with four large panels containing plenty of information on Lewis Carroll's life in Daresbury, at Oxford, on his friendship with Alice Liddell, and the creation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and with windows in-between. There were no cases or cabinets containing Lewis Carroll artefacts, which is what I was expecting to find. It will mainly be used as an educational centre for school parties. The centre cost £700,000 to build, and was financed by local fund raising events and the Heritage National Lottery Award.

Inside the refreshment marquee I met the families of the Daresbury Alice, Miss Thalia Thompson and the Llandudno Alice, Miss Nicol Thompson. Nicol's mum, Deborah, told me about a spectacular event she was organising for the day before the Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza, which is an Alice Day, to celebrate Alice Liddell's 160th birthday, on Llandudno promenade on May 4th 2012.
One of the events will be a world record attempt at eating jam tarts. I have put myself forward to play Lewis Carroll for the day!

Stephen Martin