I would really like to wish Alice in Wonderland a very happy unbirthday, but today is the one day of the year we can’t! And this year is no ordinary birthday, as today celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
I have been lucky to have grown up surrounded by the magic of Alice and her weird and wonderful friends as my sister collects Alice books and has done so for years. This has led to many visits to Alice connected places which, in the last few months, have included Llandudno in north Wales and Daresbury in Cheshire.
So, where shall I start? I will begin at the beginning, go on until the end, and then stop.
Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Lewis Carroll’s real name, was born in the tiny village of Daresbury in Cheshire. He had ten brothers and sisters and grew up at the Old Parsonage in the village. The Parsonage has since been demolished, but the ground is cared for by the National Trust, known as ‘The Birthplace’. The foundations of the house have been marked out in the field and are open to the public. A wrought iron fence surrounds the site, with an archway placed at the original arched entrance to the house, and is decorated with intricate ears of corn, a reference to his work where he happily reminisces about his birthplace being surrounded by “seas of corn” in love poem Faces in the Fire, 1860.
Lewis Carroll’s father was also Revered Charles Dodgson, the vicar at All Saints Church, Daresbury between 1827 to 1843. Although the only architectural feature from Charles Dodgson’s time remaining unchanged is the church tower, a number of Alice tributes and references can be found within the building today.
This includes a really magnificent stained glass window which depicts the Nativity, but with Lewis Carroll and Alice present at the scene! Below this, the window consists of additional stained glass panels depicting characters from Carroll’s books, such as the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Duchess (I couldn’t spot the pig-baby, thank goodness), and, of course, the Cheshire Cat amongst others. These panels also contain an extract from Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘Christmas Greetings: From a Fairy to a Child’.
The original old font where Lewis Carroll would have been christened is on display in the churchyard.
All Saints Lewis Carroll Centre, Daresbury
The small and welcoming centre was recently opened and has been built as a sympathetic annexe to the church. It contains further information about the childhood of Lewis Carroll and his adult life, including his love of photography and science and, of course, his career teaching mathematics at Oxford University- a truly fascinating man.
Tasty food and drink, but also full of really tasteful references to Alice and Wonderland, including extracts from the book scripted on the walls, art work and lots and lots of teapots! The building is the village’s old Courthouse and the owners have recently restored the original ‘sessions room’ inside.
Famous for its connections with Alice in Wonderland as this is where Alice Liddell often came to holiday- the Alice who inspired Lewis Carroll to write Adventures in Wonderland.
As well as a collection of lovely places to have an authentic Mad Hatter’s tea party, Llandudno also boasts a number of ways to get involved with the Alice experience, including an augmented reality Mad Hatter’s trail around the town, an annual jam tart eating contest and a town trail comprising of some really fantastic Alice inspired sculptures.
In addition, I am very happy to report that as well as Alice tea parties, a number of Wonderful Wonderland cocktails can be sampled too.
From the Jaberwocky to Brangelina
A final interesting fact that you may not already know is Lewis Carroll’s connection with Brangelina. Sounds absurd, so it fits in very well with today’s theme (curious).
In his poem The Jaberwocky, not only did Carroll invent the word ‘chortle’ amongst others (a word and an action, in my opinion, which should be used much more and not confined to Beano comics) but also the term ‘portmanteau word’. This is the term which describes when two words are combined such as brunch, smog, motel and, more commonly seen today using names such as Brangelina and the now extinct TomKat.
Curiouser and Curiouser…